Where reality and fantasy mix - Part 3/3

Last but not least, our favourite Harry Potter owl... belongs to Harry himself.

Snowy Owl by Patrick Brinksma

Snowy Owl by Patrick Brinksma


Harry Potter’s owl Hedwig is a Snowy Owl. She is the most well known owl in Harry Potter, distinctive for her pure white colour and friendship with Harry. Did you know you could see a Snowy Owl right in the Edmonton area?

Snowy owls are the heaviest species of owls that we have here in Alberta. They are layered up with so many down feathers to keep them warm that they can reach up to 3 kg in weight. These owls are only found in Alberta in winter because with all those feathers they prefer cool temperatures.


Did you know that Snowy owls are the only species of owl in Alberta where males and females look visibly different? Older males can be almost pure white, while females and juveniles have extensive black barring. That means that the owl that played Hedwig in the movies was actually a male – Oops! In fact, Hedwig was played by 7 males… Gizmo, Kasper, Oops, Swoops, Oh Oh, Elmo, and Bandit.

Snowy Owls by Gerald Romanchuk. Female on the left, male on the right.


Some Great Horned Owls can be very light in colour and look similar to Snowy owls, but the Great Horned Owls will always have a gray tinge while the Snowy Owls will be pure white, usually with some black barring.

Listen to the Snowy Owl here.

Snowy Owl Range by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Snowy Owl Range by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


Snowy owls are circumpolar, meaning they live on all sides of the North pole. These owls nest in the Arctic in summer, and winter throughout most of Canada, including in the Edmonton and Calgary areas.

Snowy Owls don't tend to like treed areas. During winter when these owls are in the Edmonton area, you will find them in open spaces. They will perch on tall objects like power poles, fence posts, or occasionally trees, or they will perch on taller areas on the ground. To see these owls, scan open expanses for white lumps that look out of place.

Snowy owls have irruptive migrations; they may fly hundreds of kilometers south in winter, but only if they need to. They will only fly as far as they need to find food, resulting in irruptions; in some years there are many owls in the Edmonton area, and in other years there are few.

Interesting facts

Snowy owls are diurnal, meaning they are active in the daytime, just like us.

One Snowy Owl may eat 1600 lemmings in a year.

Snowy Owl in the suunset by Gerald Romanchuk.

Snowy Owl in the suunset by Gerald Romanchuk.

Happy International Harry Potter Day!!!

Hedwig's memory lives on.

If you’d like to learn more information on owls check out these sites:   

EALT Species Spotlight: Great Horned Owl

EALT Alberta Owls Brochure

Alberta Environment and Parks: Owls

Special font credit to http://www.anke-art.de/