Are Snowy Owls Nocturnal? [Explained]

Snowy owls are not nocturnal. According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service research, they are diurnal. Most of the other species of owls are nocturnal. But snowy owls are classified as diurnal due to the summer season in the Arctic. It forces them to hunt during the daytime.

Here comes a query in our minds: what is diurnal? It refers to a practice or an action carried out during the day. So, snowy owls are diurnal. It means they are active during the day and sleep at night. They also hunt their prey during the day. On the other hand, nocturnal means something that happens at night. I hope everything is clear!

Have you ever wondered when snowy owls sleep and when they hunt? Do you know when they are most active? We have addressed all these queries in this article. It’s time to get started and let’s see what we bring to the table. These facts about snowy owls will definitely amaze you and you’ll say “wow” at the end.

Do Snowy Owls Hunt During the Day or Night?

It is said that snowy owls are day hunters. They prefer hunting during the daytime, not at night. Their first and foremost food item is a lemming. You will find lemmings visible during the day. That’s why snowy owls come out during daylight and try to hunt their prey. ~ source

However, the study says that this behavior is rare. It varies according to the season. If we talk about their hunting activities in the Arctic tundra, they stay active anytime, especially in the summer. You will find enough daylight during the summer, almost 24/7.

Additionally, there was a food shortage at that time. They hunt as often as they feel like it for this reason. Thus, these polar owls are known as diurnal predators. Although their activity patterns change during the summer, that is simply because of demand. It’s not their regular behavior.

Do Snowy Owls Sleep at Night? When Do Snowy Owls Sleep?

Yes. Snowy owls mostly sleep at night. They take a rest at night after getting tired all day while hunting their prey in the Arctic regions. After sunrise, they become active again and go out of their sleeping place to hunt again.

snowy owl

However, here we are going to mold the topic towards another critical research project. It is because the Owl Research Institute organization’s researchers have found a fact about snowy owls. And they are right about this research. Let’s see what they said: ~ source

“Many owl species are nocturnal. But snowy owls are not. They hunt at any time. Their hunting activities are not dependent on the day or night. It also reveals the fact that snowy owls are diurnal and sometimes corpuscular. However, just because they do not hunt at night does not imply that they are merely nocturnal.

According to the research of the Projects Now Storm organization, scientists believe that snowy owls hunt according to their circumstances. Snowy owls living in the northern U.S. are inactive during daylight hours. ~ source

The above-mentioned conversations from researchers are somewhat true. We have discovered more valid reasons for the fact that snowy owls hunt and sleep at different times.

Where Do Snowy Owls Sleep?

Snowy owls sleep at their conveniently available places. They usually sleep where there is less danger and less possibility of predators coming there. However, according to the study, snowy owls sleep on rocks, buildings, airports, coastlines, fences, open farmlands, and on grounds or mounds.

See also  Is a Snowy Owl a Predator or Prey?

Snowy owls like to live in wide-open areas. They don’t like to stay in bushes and dense forests. This habit is in their natural habitat. That’s why you’ll never find them sleeping or staying in the forests. You’ll often see them sleeping on telephone lines and trees.

Snowy owl

According to the research given by the organization Alaska WildLife, we found the following facts about snowy owls sleeping places:

“Snowy owls always try to seek high points to sleep. That’s the reason why they like hills, telephone poles, and buildings to reside in. They sleep and sit there to survey widely open areas for their prey. They watch their prey from those long-distance places.” ~ source

According to the research of the Owl Research Institute, snowy owls can spot their prey from over 300 feet away. That’s a distance similar to the length of a football ground. Their eyesight is incredible. They can find their favorite food from longer distances. That’s why they live in high places and it’s another reason behind their diurnal predatory behavior. ~ source

The Peregrine Fund organization’s researchers also talk about where snowy owls live in the following words: ~ source

“Snowy owls sleep in open areas. They prefer areas where there are few trees. Moreover, they sleep in tundra regions in the Arctic. However, they also sleep in open fields and grasslands.”

What Time Are Snowy Owls Most Active?

Snowy owls are mostly active at dusk and dawn in winter. Usually, they are active all day during other seasons of the year, especially summertime. But, if you want to see them in winter, crepuscular periods (dusk and dawn) are the right time to spot snowy owls. It is their preferred hunting time. ~ source

The researchers of the organization Reconnect With Nature have found the following about the most active time for snowy owls: ~ source

“According to the Lab of Ornithology, snowy owls are most active during the day. They are not solely nocturnal, though. They hunt at all hours of the day. That’s why they are not merely corpuscular. They adapt and change in ways that are astounding. Many wild animals and birds change their habits at some seasons of the year, just like the snowy owls.”

Can Snowy Owls See in The Dark to Hunt?

snowy owl

Yes. Snowy owls can see in the dark to hunt. However, that does not imply that they hunt at night and are nocturnal. According to Denali Organization authors, the night vision of snowy owls is just incredible.

Also, their great hearing abilities make them outstanding hunters. When they are unable to see due to any reason, they use their hearing ability to catch and kill prey. ~ source

We now wonder how a snowy owl will spot rats and lemmings hidden beneath the snow. Because most snowy owls live in snowy areas and their prey is obviously under the snow. The All About Birds organization has already solved this mystery. They said: ~ source

“The vision of snowy owls is excellent. But one always needs X-ray or infrared vision to see miniature animals and mammals living under the snow. Hence, owls use their incredible hearing as an aid to hunting their prey under the snow. When compared to other tested animals, snowy owls have the best hearing.

See also  Interesting Facts About Snowy Owls

So, you can imagine how snowy owls are intelligent and worth knowing due to their fascinating abilities and adaptations.

Do Snowy Owls Exhibit Any Adaptations for Nocturnal Hunting?

Yes. Snowy owls exhibit many adaptations for nocturnal hunting. However, unlike many other owl species, they do not rely on nocturnal hunting adaptations. The following adaptations aid their ability to hunt successfully in their Arctic habitats. Keep in mind that snowy owls frequently endure low light conditions for a longer period of time.

  • Snowy owls have large, bulging eyes. Their big eyes help them gather more light. This adaptation enhances their visual acuity in low-light conditions. So, snowy owls are capable of seeing prey from a longer distance.
  • These white owls have exceptional visual sensitivity. It helps them spot and track their prey in dim light. Their eyes are more sensitive to low light levels than those of humans. That’s why they hunt effectively during the Arctic’s long winter nights.
  • These polar owls have a dense layer of feathers that cover their bodies. Their legs and feet are also fully covered with feathers. It helps them withstand the harsh temperatures of their habitat. It helps maintain their body heat during long periods of darkness.
  • The specialized features of snowy owls do not produce sound due to wingbeats during their flight. This adaptation is not directly related to the nocturnal hunting of polar owls. However, this enables them to stalk prey stealthily and quietly. It is beneficial both during the day and at night.

Why Are Owls Nocturnal (Opposite to Snow Owls)?


According to one of our Quora colleagues, owls are nocturnal to fill the ecological niches that are still void. There are many rodents that emerge at night. That’s why owls are nocturnal, and they hunt them at night. Again, we are reminding you that not all owls are nocturnal. ~ source

Most of the birds are diurnal, but most of the owls are nocturnal. They are night hunters because there is less danger and competition at night to hunt rodents. They have more opportunities for hunting at night, and their adaptations make it easy for them to do so.

Are All Owls Nocturnal?

Owls developed their nocturnal behavior dependent on various factors. Some of the factors that influence their sleeping and hunting activities include:

  • The behavior of their predators
  • The behavior of their prey
  • Night vision
  • Hearing capabilities
  • Competition with other hunters
  • Living areas
  • Weather and seasons

There are a lot more factors that decide how owls adapt and behave. So, we can say confidently that all owls are not nocturnal. There are more than 200 different species of owls. Their behaviors are also different and specialized. Some of them are nocturnal, some are crepuscular, and others are diurnal. ~ source

What Is the Sleeping and Activity Pattern of Snowy Owls?

According to the study, snowy owls sleep for about 12 to 15 hours. Sometimes a sleep of 8 to 10 hours is also enough for them. Other owl species sleep for a similar amount of time. Also, there is an interesting myth about almost all owls: they sleep with their eyes wide open.

snowy owl

However, it’s not true. Snowy owls sleep with their eyes closed. They tightly close their eyelids while sleeping and resting. Moreover, they “fluff out” their feathers while sleeping. Their heads are also closer to their bodies.

See also  How Do Snowy Owls Adapt in The Arctic?

Now, let’s take advantage of the sleeping pattern of baby snowy owls. They sleep whenever they feel like it. They are babies and obviously can’t hunt. So their parents, snowy owls, hunt for them. They stay in their nests and sleep with their heads down.

According to the news of Times Now, netizens were surprised to learn the sleeping habits of baby snowy owls. Most species of birds have big heads and bodies. So, the snowy owls’ babies also have big heads. They sleep with their faces down due to heavy heads. 

Port Authority ‘wildlife specialists’ hunt snowy owls at New York City’s airports

Thomas Tracy at Daily News talks about the hunting of snowy owls by Port Authority ‘Wildlife Specialists’ at the airports of New York City. The main reason behind the killing of these birds was to protect airplanes from their strikes. It was essential to do so.

We know that snowy owls live and sleep in buildings and airports. Similarly, many snowy owls were living in the city’s airport too. The wildlife experts consequently added these majestic birds to their list of birds that can attack a flying object.

snowy owl

The airplanes are put in danger while the snowy owls are kept out. We do have a query for you: was it justified, or was there no other strategy to save the aircraft as well as the endangered birds?


What is a snowy owl?

Snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus) are large and majestic birds of prey. They belong to the owl family, Strigidae. They are also known as polar owls, great white owls, and Arctic owls.

Snowy owls have a predominantly white plumage that helps them excellently camouflage in the environment. They have large and round heads. Also, their bright yellow eyes indicate that they are diurnal predators.

What other owls hunt meat in daylight, like snowy owls?

Experts at Live Science said that all owls are actually not night owls. Some are daytime hunters. Marc Devokaitis, a public information specialist working at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, has discovered amazing research.

He said the northern pygmy owl, the northern hawk owl, and many other owls are hunting meat in daylight when all other nocturnal owls are sleeping during the daytime. Furthermore, snowy owls or burrowing owls can easily be spotted during the day. Thus, this research demonstrates that not all owls are night owls. ~ source

When do snowy owls hunt -dark or at dusk?

Snowy owls hunt after dark or at dusk. It is also dependent on food availability, the breeding cycle, and weather conditions. For example, snowy owls during the breeding cycle hunt during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. They choose this time to provide food for their young.


Hunger is the prime motivator. It motivates snowy owls to hunt their prey all day. These diurnal creatures are reveling in the brilliance of daylight. Their captivating and skillfully hunting nature is embracing the daylight hours. But the bad news is that their population is decreasing day by day. Wildlife protection organizations and governments need to pay attention to saving wild creatures!

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