While owls can be observed in Ontario year round, perhaps one of the best times for owl viewing in Ontario occurs between December and February. This is due to the combination of our regular wintering owls and the addition of species such as Snowy Owls that spend the winter in Southern Ontario.
The regal Snowy Owl is one of the few birds that can even encourage non-birders to come out for a look. They are instantly recognizable thanks to Harry Potter, as well as their key features such as white plumage and yellow eyes. Snowy Owls are North America’s largest owl (by weight), larger animals weighing upwards of 2.95 kg (6.5 lbs.). Males and females are sexually dimorphic; males are always the whitest birds, while females have heavy dark brown to black barring. Unlike many of the other owls in Ontario, Snowy Owls are exclusively diurnal they hunt and are active when there is daylight, in the Arctic this could be at all hours when there is continuous daylight. Snowy Owls are also unusual in comparison to other Ontario owls, for their habit of preferring to sit on the ground or lower level perches such as fencepost.
In Southern Ontario we typically see Snowy Owls during the months of December, January and February near open water, shorelines or wide open flat fields. They migrate during the winter into Southern Ontario from the Arctic in search of food, which depending on the severity of the winter can be hard to find. The number of individuals that migrate into Southern Ontario varies from year to year, their migrations are extremely variable. This may be attributed to the lemming cycles farther north. During years with larger migrations or interruption (periodic mass movements of birds into new areas beyond their normal ranges) years Snowy Owls can be found Canada wide and in the lower 48 states and as far south as Texas and Florida. In 2011 a Snowy Owl even turned up in Honolulu, Hawaii, the first record for the state.
During this tour we will spend the day searching a local hotspot and known locations in the north of Toronto for Snowy Owls. We will also be looking for other wintering birds including Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, Rough-legged Hawks and Bald Eagles.
SCHEDULED GROUP TOURS
Sun Jan 21, 2018: SOLD OUT*
- Number of persons limit: 6**
- Sun Jan 28, 2018: alternative date in the event of poor weather, please ensure you are available for both days when booking
- Departure: 8:30 am
- Return: 12:30 pm
* Price does not include meals or transportation, please see the Tour Notes and Guidelines for a full list of items not included
**Tour operates only if participate limit is met
- Snowy Owl
- Snow Bunting
- Rough-legged Hawk
- Bald Eagle
- Northern Shrike
Best Time of Year to View Snowy Owls
Tour Notes and Guidelines
- While we have very good success rates at seeing owls we cannot guarantee sightings
- We respect the personal space of wildlife and property owners, and follow the Ontario Field Ornithologists Code of Ethics
- Poor weather conditions often produce the interesting birds & wildlife, therefore, tours will proceed rain or shine. Listen to weather forecasts and dress accordingly. Only the most severe weather conditions will postpone trips.
- Note that participants are solely responsible for making their own arrangements for accommodation, transportation, parking, meals, park fees and payments for such arrangements is at their own expense
- Transportation will be by personal vehicle and car pool and passengers are encouraged to contribute to fuel costs if car pooling
- Participants should bring their own binoculars, camera, water and snacks
- The trip itinerary and schedule is subject to change to give us the best opportunity to see wildlife and depending on weather patterns, current local bird activity, scouting results or any unforeseen factors- please ensure you are available for the tour day and alternate date when booking
- Please register by email through the “Book Now” button on this page
- Payment is by cash on the day of the tour