Status in Northern Ireland:
Irregular winter visitor.
A large, strikingly white owl with a smooth, dome-shaped head, no ear tufts and piercing yellow eyes. The all-white plumage can show a great variation of black and brown spotting and bars on the upper and underparts. Females tend to be more heavily marked than males. Unlike most owls, this species is largely diurnal and hunts low over wide-open spaces such as moorland, coastal fields, sand dunes and lake shores looking for a diversity of prey ranging from small mammals and fish to ducks and geese. It will also feed on carrion. This is predominantly a bird of the Arctic tundra where it nests in a scrape on the ground but the bird moves south to overwinter. One pair bred in Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal in 2001, at the extreme edge of its Arctic breeding range, although the eggs failed to hatch.