Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2013-21a

Common name:

Snowy Owl

Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
Date: 2/18/13
Time: 1646
Length of time observed: 45 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Male
Location: 4600 N, S of Cache Junction
County: Cache
Latilong: 41.8155936,-111.9638157
Distance to bird:  ~60 meters
Optical equipment: Nikon Fieldscope 20-60x, 60mm (spotting scope)
Weather: mostly sunny and about 30 -35 degrees F
Light Conditions: Sunny for the initial 10-15 minutes, then slightly overcast before the sun began setting behind the mountains. Bird was well lit by the sun and the sun was behind us while viewing the bird. Owl seemed to glow in the sunlight.
Description:        Size of bird: Large
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Rounded, 'owl shaped'
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: White
(Description:)            Bill Type: Small, pointed
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Large owl, mostly white with minimal black spots/barring on back. Yellow eyes and small black bill were clearly visible. Overall the owl was nearly completely all white with some black markings on back and back of head. The black markings on the owl (tail and back) were miniscule, especially when in flight as the owl became nearly camouflaged when flying low against the snow. The lack of black on this bird makes it a candidate for an adult male. See photograph provided.
Song or call & method of delivery: Silent
Behavior: First seen sitting on a motor of a agricultural sprinkler system. The owl remained in sitting for about 15 minutes before flying onto a different wheel on the same sprinkler line. After about 5 more minutes the owl flew to a sprinkler line further in the distance and remained sitting for about 5 more minutes, before flying down below a small hill and out of sight. Within 1 minute a Rough-legged hawk made two apparent passes at the owl that was presumed to be sitting on the ground (out of sight). After about 10 minutes the owl returned into view and flew up from the ground onto the hood of a small wooden shed. We watched the owl sit atop this shed for the remainder of time. Just as the sun was setting the owl took flight from the shed and flew in a northerly direction out of sight.
Habitat: Mostly agricultural fields and large patches of undeveloped land. Wetlands visible in the distance.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Most similar species to Snowy Owl would be a Barn Owl. As a birder, there are obvious differences between these two owls. Snowy Owl is much larger and nearly all white, unlike a Barn Owl that has nearly all white on the underside, with a tan to tawny coloring on the back. Eye coloration is also different with Snowy Owls having yellow eyes and Barn Owls having black eyes. This was clearly a Snowy Owl due to coloration, size, and the yellow eyes.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
This was the first time I have ever seen a Snowy Owl in the field. I have seen photographs of Snowy Owls and documentaries on their breeding behavior. I am familiar with Barn Owls and have already seen at least 8 Barn Owls in the valley this year alone.
References consulted:
Description from: From memory
Observer: Leah Lewis
Observer's address: 434 W 100 N, Logan
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: 2/19/13
Additional material: Photo