Round-headed, eyes yellow, bill black. Feet heavily feathered. Lacks true facial disk. A distinctive white owl with varying degrees of dark brown spotting and barring. Adult males are almost pure white, although they have up to three tail bands. Adult females are distinctly barred throughout, although white still dominates. Females usually have from four to six tail bands. Immatures are very heavily barred throughout, and dark spotting may dominate the overall plumage. Intensity of dark spotting varies with the sex of the immatures; females are the darkest. An easy owl to recognize. SIZE: 20 to 27 inches. WEIGHT: 59 to 70 ounces (3.5 to 4.5 pounds). VOICE: The Snowy Owl is virtually silent during nonbreeding seasons. During the breeding season males have a loud, booming "hoo, hoo" given as a territorial advertisement or mating call. Females rarely hoot. The attack call is a guttural "krufff-guh-guh-guk
". When excited it may emit a loud "hooo-uh, hooo-uh, hooo-uh, wuh-wuh-wuh
". Other sounds are dog-like barks, rattling cackles, shrieks, hissing, and bill-snapping. Nestlings "cheep
" up to 2 weeks of age, then hiss and squeal.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
The Barn Owl has brown eyes, a white bill, and a heart-shaped facial disk. Also, they are rusty or tawny colored dorsally. The Short-eared Owl may also be confused; however, its overall color gives a golden/brown appearance and it is much smaller.
Western Hemisphere Range
Migratory, but adults tend to remain farther north.
Breeds on Arctic tundra. Winters primarily on open plains, and in coastal and agricultural areas.
Primarily voles and lemmings, although capable of taking ptarmigan, ducks, geese, hares, and rabbits.
Begins breeding in May or June. Nests on the ground. Clutch size four to nine. Incubation 32 days. Young fledge at 50 to 60 days.