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Snowy in August? A pair of snowy owl chicks have hatched!

Posted by Gigi Allianic

Hello, snowy owl chick! Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
We're so excited to welcome a pair of snowy owl chicks to our zoo family, and these youngsters are all eyes! The last hatching of the species at Woodland Park Zoo’s was nine years ago. These owlets join the host of animals born or hatched at the zoo since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic including: a tawny frogmouth chick, a tapir calf, a gorilla baby, agouti pups, penguin chicks, scaly-sided merganser ducklings, a pudu fawn, a mountain goat kid, and more! 

I see you! Snowy owl chicks, known as owlets, are covered in greyish down. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
First-time parents, mom June and dad Dusty, and their brood live in the Northern Trail habitat. “Mom sits on the nest most of the time, a sign of good maternal care. The owlets are beginning to venture outside the nest, so visitors may have the chance to see them on the ground,” said Kevin Murphy, an animal curator at Woodland Park Zoo

June, mother of the snowy owl chicks. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo
The parents were paired under the Snowy Owl Species Survival Plan, which is a cooperative, conservation breeding program across zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population.

The population of snowy owls in their natural habitat is decreasing and the species is vulnerable. As these raptors migrate south, they come into more contact with human civilization. Snowy owls die from flying into utility lines, wire fences, cars, airplanes (at airports) and other human structures. Some owls are even killed by hunters; changes in the arctic climate also may be a looming threat for this species. Owls in general are in decline because of habitat loss, introduced disease and poisoning from improperly used rodent poison.

Our snowy owlets are beginning to venture outside of the nest, under the watchful eyes of their protective parents. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo participates in 111 Species Survival Plans, overseen by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Led by experts in husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, behavior, and genetics, these plans also involve a variety of other collaborative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction and field projects.

What's what with snowy owls
  • The fluffy white snowy owl is the heaviest North American owl and one of the largest in overall size. Males are nearly pure white and the female’s white plumage is highlighted with dark brown bars and spots.
  • The snowy owl prefers open areas for its breeding range, including tundra and grasslands. During winter it seeks treeless habitat to the south including prairies, marshes or shorelines.
  • The arctic-dwelling snowy owl is migratory and nomadic.
  • When there are changes in availability of prey, particularly a scarcity of lemmings, large numbers of owls will fly to southern Canada and the northern U.S., including Washington state, in search of food. This phenomenon is known as an irruption.
Male snowy owls are almost completely white with just a few flecks of brown. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

How to help snowy owls

On both their breeding and wintering grounds, the diet of snowy owls can range widely to include rodents, rabbits, hares, squirrels, weasels, wading birds, seabirds, ducks, grebes and geese. Locally, everyone can take action by avoiding the use of pesticides, chemical herbicides, and rodenticides in their backyards to support a healthy community for local and migratory bird species. Using these products has an impact on the foods that birds eat—anything ingested by rodents would then be ingested by owls. 

Every few years a number of snowy owls fly to southern Canada and the northern U.S., including Washington state, in search of food. In 2011, a wild snowy owl was spotted on the roof of a zoo building. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo has reopened—visit now! Go to to purchase timed-entry admission tickets and to learn about changes to help keep zoo visitors, animals and staff healthy. For additional ways to support your zoo, consider a membership or contribute to the Relief Fund at The zoo appreciates the community support!