Princeton Audubon Double Elephant Edition, 27 1/4 x 39 1/4
This portrait was based on a composition probably painted in 1829 on the East coast. Audubon gave these birds one of the only nocturnal settings found in The Birds of America. He used pencil to portray the owl's soft, downy feathers.
The breeding ground of the magnificent snowy owl lies across northern Alaska and Canada, where the lemming is its staple food, supplemented by ptarmigan, fish and hare. A persistent hunter, it spends much time on lookouts such as banks, boulders, knolls, and dunes along the sea. Periodic epidemics decimate the lemmings and seem to account for the bird's southward flight, which gives Stateside birders a chance to see this large, white inhabitant of the tundra.