Discover Nature: Snowy Owls

Jan 24, 2018

Snowy owls only occasionally visit Missouri. Watch for these large, white, arctic predators perched on fence posts, hay bales, and in fields, in search of food.
Credit Terri Nickerson

This week on Discover Nature, watch for a rare, snow-white visitor to our state.

The snowy owl only occasionally visits Missouri, general in the winter of years when food runs low in its arctic range.

Snowy owls are large: up to two feet from bill to tail, with a five-foot wingspan. Adorned with ample white feathers, yellow eyes, and a round head, younger owls may also have extensive black barring on their body.

In their arctic habitat, they feed mainly on lemmings.  When prey populations crash some of these owls head south in search of food.

In Missouri, they hunt rabbits, squirrels, mink, muskrats, waterfowl, and other birds and rodents. Watch for these hungry visitors, most active during daylight hours, sitting patiently on fence posts, hay bales, or on the ground. 

Because these tundra dwellers are not used to the dangers of power-lines, people, and cars, it’s best not to approach them, and slow down if you happen to see one while driving.

Learn more about snowy owls and where to see them with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.