Snowy owl

the ultimate arctic hunter


Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Bubo (Dumeril 1805)
Species: Bubo scandiacus (Linnaeus 1758 sensu Rudbeck (1693-1710))

Synonyms: Nyctea scandiaca (Linnaeus 1758), Strix scandiaca (Linnaeus, 1758), Strix Nyctea (Linnaeus 1758), Bubo lapponicus (Brisson 1760), Strix wapacuthu/Bubo virginianus wapacuthu (Gmelin 1788), Strix arctica (Bartram 1791), Strix nivea (Thunberg 1798), Strix bubo Daudin 1800), Strix candida (Latham 1801), Strix erminea (Shaw 1809), Haemeria nivea (Zander 1838), Nyctea nivea europea/americana (Brehm 1866), Leuchybris nivea (Sundevall 1872), Bubo scandiaca (Ridgway 1874) (see Portenko 1972).

The scientific name for the Snowy Owl was recently changed from Nyctea scandiaca to Bubo scandiacus (Sangster et al. 2004). This decision was based upon both anatomical and behavioural traits which emphasized the species close relationship to eagle owls, in particular to Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus. In the new monograph on the Snowy Owl (Potapov & Sale) the authors rejected such arguments and used the former scientific name of Nyctea scandiaca. They argue that the Snowy Owl is clearly distinct from Bubo-species both genetically and anatomically. They also mean that the Snowy Owl has arisen as a species in the Palearctic, and that it occupied its current distribution range round 4000 years ago.