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Canada's Species   Birds

Snowy Owl

Nyctea scandiaca

Photo:Mont St-Hilaire Nature Center
Snowy Owl. Photo:Mont St-Hilaire Nature Center

The snowy owl is the official bird of Quebec. This species is easily identified as a large, white owl with no ear tufts. Although it breeds only above treeline on the arctic tundra of Canada, this species often visits southern Canada during the winter months. The biology of the snowy owl is closely tied to that of its preferred prey item, arctic lemmings. When lemming populations are low, the snowy owl may fail to nest, and the remaining owls head south in search of food, with many individuals being observed in Southern Canada during winter. Alternatively, when lemming populations are at their peak, A single owl may raise up to 14 young, and may overwinter in the Arctic, so long as food can be found. Although the snowy owl is protected from hunting in Canada, trophy hunters continue to illegally shoot significant numbers of snowy owls each year. Other snowy owls are killed by collisions with cars, airplanes, and utility lines. Fortunately, the Arctic breeding areas of this species are largely undisturbed by humans, making this species relatively immune to human development.

Map of Snowy Owl in Canada
Distribution of Snowy Owl in Canada

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