Where Do Snowy Owls Live?

Snowy owls are circumpolar species of raptors that live in the far northern regions of the North Pole. You can easily spot snowy owls living and breeding in many areas of the northern United States, southern Canada, Asia, and Europe. Thus, the Arctic tundra regions around the North Pole are their favorite places to live. Interestingly, that’s another reason why they are also named “Tundra Owls”.

Tundra is a widely open and timeless area of the Arctic region. Snowy owls are native to this habitat, especially in North America and Eurasia. In the tundra, they prefer to live in open fields and grasslands. It doesn’t mean the snowy owls do not live or cannot survive in other regions of the world. It simply means God designed them perfectly so they can survive and thrive in hardship!

So, where do snowy owls live? And most importantly, do you know where they migrate every year? We know that a bunch of questions are whirling in your brains about the great white owls. That’s why we decided to assemble this article to disclose all the secret places of the great white owls.

Where Do Snowy Owls Live in The Summer?

According to the report of The Peregrine Fund organization, snowy owls live in the tundra in the summer. They spend summer days in the Arctic Circle around the North Pole. When it’s time to breed in May, they prefer to live near open water.

The preferred areas for the snowy owls to live and mate in summer are the Aleutian Islands, coastal regions of Alaska, the Canadian Islands that fall under the Arctic Circle, Northern Russia, and Scandinavia. Thus, they can venture into subarctic regions or even more southerly areas to live a better life in the summer. ~ Source

Where Do Snowy Owls Live in The Winter?

snowy owl

Snowy owls live in the south of the tundra in the winter. This is so that they can easily find food and catch their prey in the southern tundra region. They are also often spotted in North Carolina, the northern parts of America, and Canada.

Quick Info Map: Here is an accurate map that specifies the exact locations of snowy owls in North America: Map Link.

The locals are mostly surprised due to the influx of wild birds they do not see daily. Snowy owls also live near the Belcher Islands and the St. Lawrence River. They enjoy their happy fiesta party there!

In winter, the United States faces a peak of hungry and solitary birds, especially snowy owls. Texas and Florida are their favorite destinations every year. The migration patterns of snowy owls in winter are still perplexing because some owls do not migrate, no matter how cold it is. These profound homebodies stay in the Arctic tundra.

Fun Facts: More than 48 lower states of the U.S. watch snowy owls come to their areas periodically each year, according to the survey of the “All About Birds” organization. This is a large number for states and wintering birds both!

Where Do Snowy Owls Migrate?

Again, The Peregrine Fund report talks about the migration patterns of snowy owls. The report says snowy owls follow a unique phenomenon called “irruption“. Now what is irruption? This means long-distance journeys and travels of snowy owls. The main point is that this is not a casual, normal-range journey. Snowy Owls can travel beyond our imagination. ~ Source

Scientists have given only two reasons for the irruption phenomenon:

  • When the population of voles and lemmings available is very low.
  • When the population of voles and lemmings is very high.

The tundra habitats are forced to leave their homes due to the low availability of food. The high availability of food helps them breed and produce more young. A question may pop up in your brain: why do they migrate even if food availability is high?

snowy owl flying

The answer is simple. More food leads to more owls, their young and intense competition for food during hunting season. If this is the case, the owls travel farther away in search of prey to avoid rivalry or competition with other owls.

So, snowy owls travel so far south that they are known to reach the lands of Oklahoma and even northern California, and Texas, when irruption occurs. A snowy owl made his journey toward Hawaii in 2011. Sometimes, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and even further south to areas like New York, Massachusetts, and occasionally even Florida, are also their destinations.

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Snowy owls are hesitant to migrate long distances in the winter season. However, summer is their favorite season, with a lot of lemmings. In simple words, this is their breeding season. They are also observed traveling toward New England and New York.

Snowy owls are seen migrating toward central Russian areas and northern Europe in the cold weather. Additionally, they occasionally try to visit the British Isles and Iceland. These Arctic owls do not follow a regular migration route. Also, they do not prefer any wintering areas for staying and breeding every year.

Do Snowy Owls Migrate in Groups?

snowy owl

No, snowy owls do not migrate in groups. They are loners. They do not prefer to live or migrate in flocks. You’ll only see one or three snowy owls in one place. Even their young also move on in different directions towards different places after getting mature.

You may spot them in groups (occasionally in pairs or small family units) only during the infiltration period. However, this is about something other than groups, even if you see them together. It is clear that they are there for food. They are solitary birds of prey because of their extreme nomadism.

The snowy owls each take a different route. They soar through the vast and beautiful landscapes in search of suitable winter habitats and ample prey. Thus, it is likely to be a solitary trip if you happen to see a snowy owl while flying. They would be gracefully moving toward the open expanses of the world. They might be on a world tour, but they are not traveling together!

How Far Can Snowy Owls Travel to Live And Mate?

According to a recent study, snowy owls in the Canadian Arctic are observed flying over long distances. They covered a long distance of 4093 km. The study also discovered snowy owls covered areas ranging from 220 to 2433 km2 in a year.

Here is the complete journey of Baltimore (a well-known bionic snowy owl in the research). The scientists attached a transmitter to its back and let it fly. Baltimore flew and migrated to dozens of different places in 2013. It was a boom time when lemmings in the U.S. were abundant.

The scientists got amazing results. Baltimore’s journey never stopped in one place; he traveled from Manhattan to Canada. The journey to Baltimore helped scientists and ecologists predict many parameters and protect the population of snowy owls. Baltimore is an amazing guy!

Where Do Snowy Owls Live in Canada?

Snowy owl

Snowy owls in Canada? Well, these wild birds have got their big, wide wings spread across the Great White North! But here are a few frosty hotspots where snowy owls are most active in Canada. You can easily watch them live in peace and happiness.

1.      The Arctic Tundra

Snowy owls absolutely adore the Arctic tundra in Canada. These stone-cold birds are always happy to make homes in this frozen wonderland. From the Yukon to Nunavut and the Northwest Territories of Canada, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of these birds. You can brace yourself for an arctic adventure!

2.      Coastal Areas

Let’s picture Canada’s breathtaking coastal areas with chilly breezes and crashing waves. That’s where you will find snowy owls, too. You can head towards provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. These are the coastal regions where chilly playgrounds become the homes of snowy owls.

3.      Prairie Provinces

Snowy Owls live in the heart of the Prairie Provinces of Canada. They are living in wide-open spaces from Manitoba to Saskatchewan and Alberta. You can spot them perched on fence posts or gliding easily over the rolling prairies.

4.      Northern Quebec

If you move further to the east, you will discover the domain of snowy owls in northern Quebec. So, keep your eyes peeled in areas like Nunavik. Here, these Arctic wanderers are roosting and resting without any external interference. The news update on CNN spots snowy owls in the neighborhood of Canada. ~ Source

5.      Ontario’s Far North

Snowy owls live in a corner of tranquility despite the hustle and bustle of Ontario. You can easily see them in the far north of the province, including regions like James Bay and Hudson Bay. These owls have a peaceful life in the rugged beauty of the Canadian Shield.

6.      Manitoba’s Interlake Region

Manitoba’s Interlake Region is a temporary heaven for snowy owls during the winter months. They nestle between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba. You can take a long drive along Highway 17 and see these enchanting creatures in snow-covered fields.

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7.      Saskatchewan’s Grasslands

The grasslands of Saskatchewan play host to snowy owls during their winter migration. You can explore Grasslands National Park or hop on the Grasslands Ecotour for a chance to observe these Arctic visitors.

Always remember to observe snowy owls from a respectful distance in Canada. Obviously, you need to prioritize their well-being.

Why Do Snowy Owls Live in The Arctic?

Here are a few reasons why snowy owls live in the Arctic: ~ Source

ParametersDescription
Seasonal VariationSnowy Owls are adapted to live in different seasons. Cold winters and long, warm summers are their best seasons to breed and feed on the grounds.
No Human InterferenceHumans do not disturb the snowy owls in the Arctic regions. An undisturbed environment helps them to live in their natural habitat.
Open Tundra HabitatSnowy owls’ survival rate is higher in open tundra habitats due to various physical and behavioral adaptations. This type of habitat suits their hunting strategies, like soaring and scanning the landscape.
No Natural Tree CoverTrees and congested type areas are a hurdle between the prey (lemmings, voles, etc) and predator (snowy owls). Snowy Owls also do not rely on trees for roosting and nesting. The absence of natural tree cover in the Arctic helps them to live in open spaces.
Arctic Air CurrentsArctic air currents, such as the polar vortex, contribute to the stability of the Arctic ecosystem. That’s the reason why snowy owls with favorable wind patterns for migration are able to navigate efficiently.
Nomadic LifestyleSnowy owls have a nomadic lifestyle. It drives them toward the availability of prey. The resource-rich and expansive areas of the Arctic facilitate their ability to move freely in search of hunting grounds.
Ecological ConnectivityThe Arctic ecosystem is interconnected with various wild creatures for survival. Snowy owls play a vital role in balancing the ecosystem and contributing functionality to the ecological web.
Adaptation to Continuous LightSnowy owls experience continuous daylight for several months in the Arctic summers. They are adapted to this extended period of light. It is beneficial for hunting, breeding, and rearing their young.
Limited Nesting PredationSnowy owls nest in remote Arctic regions. There are fewer predators in these areas to keep their nests safe. This increases their survival rate.

Apart from the above-mentioned reasons, historical evolutionary factors are also reasons why they live in the Arctic. Thus, we can say that the presence of snowy owls in these regions is a result of long-term evolutionary processes.

Where Do Snowy Owls Live in the US?

Snowy owls with white feathers and yellow eyes are easy to find in the United States. The visitors’ favorite places to see these beautiful owls are along the coasts of the Great Lakes. These birds live near lakes in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Thus, snowy owls seek refuge in the milder climates and abundant prey in the U.S. after traveling miles from the Arctic.

Coastal areas along the Atlantic Ocean are also preferred locations for these birds of prey. However, they are occasionally found in states like Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey in the United States. They are also cherishing their lives in Montana, North Dakota, and even Texas. Let’s take advantage of watching them in New York or New England before they migrate somewhere else! ~ Source

Where To Spot a Snowy Owl in Northern Michigan?

Snowy owl

When they migrate towards Northern Michigan, there is a great chance to see snowy owls. They prefer shoreline areas with nice scrub habitat. Most of the snowy owls in Michigan arise from Chippewa, mostly the Eastern U.P. regions. The snowy owls are welcome in a few areas of Mackinac counties as well.

You can find dozens of these Arctic owls in other areas like Sault Ste Marie, Pickford, Rudyard, and Sault Township. Setting up territories in these areas is easy for them. A small number of tundra owls are also living on the Rudyard Loop. You can follow M-48, Hantz Road, and Centerline Road to spot them.

Here is a bonus point for you: The great gray owls and northern hawk owls are additional pleasant surprises in Rudyard Loop. The EUP is a prime destination for many wintering birds in the Midwest. The number of snowy owls in Michigan has increased over the past seven years, including in all the coastal counties.

Snowy Owls at Michigan Airports

Snowy Owls are not just present in the wildlife environment but also in airports and farm fields. Many local airports in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids are commonly called “snowy owl hotspots”. The credit goes to these airports’ growing population of snowy owls.

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The hustle and bustle of traffic and people at airports cause noise pollution for them, but at least they can find prey with ease. Unfortunately, they also cause many conflicts at airports. That’s why the USDA Wildlife Services in Michigan works so hard to relocate these wild creatures. ~ Source

Do Snowy Owls Live in Greenland?

Yes. Snowy owls do live in Greenland. Greenland is home to a variety of bird species, including Bubo scandiacus. According to a study in Greenland, climate change directly impacts the population of lemmings. As a result, a large number of snowy owls began to migrate towards Greenland.

Not just this, but Greenland is also an important part of their natural habitat. Snowy Owls are particularly found in the northern regions of Greenland. Their white plumage helps them blend in with the snowy surroundings, making them a beautiful sight in the icy landscapes of Greenland. ~ Source

Where Are Alaska’s Snowy Owls?

The High-Country News reported that the researcher, Denver Holt, studied where snowy owls are in Alaska. Holt was operating this study under his nonprofit organization, Owl Research Institute. He spent 30 years of his life studying these owls, as Alaska is also home to snowy owls.

According to Holt’s study, snowy owls are commonly found in the Bering Sea and the Arctic coastal plain. Barrow, now known as Utqiaġvik, is recognized as one of the primary locations to observe snowy owls in Alaska. Additionally, areas like Nome, St. Lawrence Island, and the Aleutian Islands have reported snowy owl sightings.

Hold said that the population and distribution of snowy owls in Alaska have fluctuated over the years. According to recent observations, their presence in Alaska is varying. It is often influenced by cyclical lemming populations and environmental effects.

For example, an irruption event occurred in the winter of 2011-2012. This era caused a significant influx of snowy owls into the northern regions of Alaska. However, subsequent years saw a decline in their numbers. In 1995, he documented more than 60 nests in a 214 sq. km area. But see what happens in 2020? He found nothing. Nothing!

From the deep study of Denver Holt, ecologists and bird enthusiasts have found the following fact:

“The population of snowy owls may decline all over the world by 30 to 49 percent in only three generations. This is quite devastating. Holt blames the lemmings and warm weather conditions for the decline of the snowy owl population in Alaska.” ~ Source

Where To See Snowy Owls in The UK?

The UK is a special place for birdwatching enthusiasts to watch snowy owls. These birds are documented in various parts of the UK, including:

  • Scottish islands of Orkney
  • Outer Hebrides
  • Scottish islands of Shetland

Coastal areas, marshes, and farmland are often the most favorable habitats for snowy owls in the UK.

How Long Do Snowy Owls Stay in One Place?

snowy owl

Each snowy owl is different, and it all depends on them. Some snowy owls like staying within their 10-mile radius for the rest of their lives. If food is scarce, they roam around here and there but return to their homes immediately.

More adventurous than other snowy owls, they migrate in search of food and to lay eggs. Often, they go back to their old nests (here, nests mean territories and roosting areas) and reuse them. There is a high possibility that the snowy owl that visits your property every year is the same owl that has been visiting for generations.

Technically, they can stay in their new homes for 6 to 7 months after migration. They wait until their owlets are fully grown before continuing on their way. However, the duration that snowy owls stay in one place varies from a few weeks to several months. It also depends on factors like individual behavior, environmental conditions, prey availability, and breeding season.

FAQs

Do snowy owls live everywhere in the world?

Yes, snowy owls live everywhere in the world except Antarctica. The more accurate answer is: they can survive everywhere in the world. The only reason is their long migratory journeys out of Arctic areas.

Where do snowy owls sleep during migration?

Snowy Owls sleep in crevices, rocks, buildings, grass, fences, mounds, grounds, and even hollow trees. They can also sleep underground after making sure no other predators are roaming around them.

Is the snowy owl in the Arctic or Antarctic?

Snowy owls are in the Arctic. They are found on all continents except Antarctica. They are circumpolar birds that favor the Arctic as well as some areas of Europe and Asia. They can also easily survive in prairies and deserts.

Do snowy owls live in trees?

No, mostly snowy owls do not live in trees. They do not nest and breed in trees. However, if there is a hollow tree, they can live in it. Otherwise, they avoid forested and tree areas.

Why do airports look like homes to snowy owls?

Airports look like homes to snowy owls because they resemble the natural Arctic habitat in many ways. For example, airports have large open areas for runways, taxiways, and expanses of flat terrain. Likewise, airports have limited vegetation and sparse tree growth. Snowy owls are also attracted to food-rich environments around airports.

Conclusion

Although snowy owls migrate, they have historically lived in the gloomy Arctic. There is no boundary for a snowy owl to move to different places all over the world, from the corners of the United States to Asian countries. No one can predict when these snowy owls will come in front of us. They are not tame birds, but they are also not dangerous if we stay away from them.

So, always give them their space if they happen to fly near your home or stay in your car. Take care of the snowy owls, as they are guests in your homeland. You can watch them with the help of a binocular or a scope.

If you ever encounter a snowy owl in your home and backyard or while driving a car, you can share your experience in the comment section!

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