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At first glance, the rules for sexing Snowy Owls seem simple. Males are smaller and whiter than females. In this regard, they follow the rule of most hawks and owls: Females are larger than males.

But size is subjective when you have only one bird to see and have not had significant recent experience comparing Snowy Owls of both sexes.

The whiteness part of the rule is also complicated by age. Older Snowy Owls  of either sex are whiter and have less barring than younger Snowy Owls of the same sex. Young Snowy Owls of both sexes are darker and have more barring.  Some first year Snowy Owls are so heavily barred that they really look more gray than white. I think of them as "Slushy Owls."  The only Snowy Owls that are "almost-pure-white" are old males (provided that you see them well, that is).

So, can a younger male resemble an older female in the amount of barring and whiteness? I think so. If our bird is not an almost-pure-white older male, but rather is fairly white, but somewhat barred, I think we need more help than we have received so far in knowing whether it is a young male or older female.

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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