Historical information

The Snowy owl is a large and powerful bird. It is one of the largest species of owl, and in North America, it is on average the heaviest owl species. The adult male is virtually pure white, but females and young birds have some dark spots; the young are heavily barred, and dark spotting may even predominate. Thick plumage, heavily feathered taloned feet, and coloration render the Snowy owl well-adapted for life north of the Arctic Circle.

This Snowy Owl example is slightly discoloured and in real life the Snowy Owl displays much more brilliant white feathers.

This specimen is part of a collection of almost 200 animal specimens that were originally acquired as skins from various institutions across Australia, including the Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Museum of Victoria (known as Museums Victoria since 1983), as well as individuals such as amateur anthropologist Reynell Eveleigh Johns between 1860-1880. These skins were then mounted by members of the Burke Museum Committee and put-on display in the formal space of the Museum’s original exhibition hall where they continue to be on display. This display of taxidermy mounts initially served to instruct visitors to the Burke Museum of the natural world around them, today it serves as an insight into the collecting habits of the 19th century.


This specimen is part of a significant and rare taxidermy mount collection in the Burke Museum. This collection is scientifically and culturally important for reminding us of how science continues to shape our understanding of the modern world. They demonstrate a capacity to hold evidence of how Australia’s fauna history existed in the past and are potentially important for future environmental research.

This collection continues to be on display in the Museum and has become a key part to interpreting the collecting habits of the 19th century.

Physical description

This Snowy Owl adult male is virtually pure white with brown spot markings and a pale brownish wash. It has thick plumage and heavily feathered taloned feet. This specimen stands upon a wooden platform and has an identification tag tied around its leg.

Inscriptions & markings

Swing tag:
[torn] snowy owl / See catalogue, page 54 /

Metal tag:
4054 /