The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
For most North American birders, this owl is a rare wintertime treat: scarce most years even in the northern tier of U.S. states, absent some winters, and a bit more common once a decade or so. It’s all about food availability: when the birds’ rodent prey base either crashes or is in super-abundance, Snowy Owls push south in winter. Audubon's climate model suggests that in the future such southward excursions may become less extensive. By century’s end, climatically suitable areas for wintering Snowy Owls may have pushed north from southern Canada well into the Arctic. The big question for these owls isn’t climate per se—these big predators can withstand harsh weather—but, rather, the indirect effect of climate on the owls’ prey base.