Big Island

Arctic Snowy Owl Sightings in Kona, Hawaii

I am an amateur Hawaii bird watcher. I smile to think Snowy Owls love Hawaii too! Hawaii is a human melting pot of nationalities that get along so well with each other – I am always happily amazed at this fact! It is a combination of things like the sharing of our delicious foods and cultural traditions that have become common place in Hawaii and enjoyed by all.

I have recently learned that a beautiful Arctic Snowy Owl has come here, perhaps to stay as well. I have heard there was a sighting at the Kona Airport that had a sad ending, but mine is better…read on.

The other day I was sharing a recent amazing hawk experience with friends and told them that I had learned a fascinating thing about the snowy owl and how some of them have moved here and call Hawaii home.

Personal Encounter

One of my friends that I surf with (that I was telling about my amazing hawk experience) shared with me an experience he had recently with an Artic Snowy Owl here in Kona.

He happened to be up at 3:00am and was out in his yard enjoying the nighttime views and temperatures of our lovely island when he was startled (and thrilled) by a snowy owl landing only a few feet away in his hedge. The bird stood 2 ft. tall and had a 5 ft. wingspan. Owl and man startled each other.

My friend went on to say it was so mystical, as the snowy owl in that light lent a similarity of perhaps a cat with wings, close up, with a slight boxy shape to its face; the bird also had his furry looking legs and wings extended as he landed. Interestingly, this owl has appeared again a second time a few weeks later and my friend’s wife saw it as well that time.

1968 Arctic Snowy Owl Sighting in Hawaii

That was an amazing story, so a few nights later, I was sharing the story over dinner with my good friend and PHD, who had resided on Molokai Island in the 60’s, and she said, “Oh yes, I have seen one on Molokai, it was back in 1968 and I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

Somehow it was a reassuring note to me as I heard her words. Probably because I thought perhaps global warming or something we (mankind) have done to our planet might be causing a recent exodus of these magnificent creatures from the arctic to the tropics. A sighting in 1968 discounts that theory in my book. So, I found out that there is nothing recent about the appearance of this snowy owl in Hawaii.

I know now that everyone loves Hawaii, even Snowy Owls! Although it is a horrendously long flight for them, maybe they are able to find refuge on sailing ships. When I sailed the South Pacific as an adolescent, we had different birds hitchhike on our yacht, and I for one gave them food and water when they arrived nearly dead in that weakened, dehydrated state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I am reassured with our healthy rat, mouse, and mongoose population that this Arctic Snowy Owl should easily be able to find enough to hunt in Kona. I have a common white Pueo (owl) that visits my home after dark and it is always a thrill to me when he swoops near me or sits in my huge Haden mango tree and hoots after dark. Since I live close to my friend whom gets these occasional visits from the Arctic Snowy Owl, I have been watching the Kona night skies for my glimpse of this big amazing beauty.

It’s a wonderful Hawaii life!

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Margaret Reynolds

July 2, 2012

What a wonderful story!

Karen Bail, R(B)

July 3, 2012

What a tale! Cant believe what they did down at the airport. Not seeing so many Pueo as before. See a few barn owls up here in Waikoloa. Had two instances where owls used my roof to facilitate their hunting experience. Will be watching for the Snowy White…how cool!

Heidi White

December 24, 2015

I got a email from Aggie today and she said the following:

“I lived on Maui in 1979. Once while hiking from Haleakala to Hana I saw an arctic white snowy owl. I could not believe my eyes! He was standing in the tree just looking at me, no more than 10 feet away. So good to read your article and see that I am not the only one to have experienced that special moment.”



February 5, 2016

My husband, my uncle and I were sitting outside in our yard one night a couple years ago at our home in Kula, Maui and saw a fully white owl. Wonder if it was an artic owl? It landed on a tree branch maybe five yards away, flew in complete silence and was scared off by me excitingly telling the men to turn around for a look. We see owls on a regular basis up here but that was the one and only completely white owl I’ve ever seen.

Heidi White

February 6, 2016

@Amanda, Thanks for commenting. I have now have sightings from the 1960’s to present on Molokai, Maui and Hawaii Island. This is really fun to note! Thanks for commenting!

Heidi White

October 14, 2016

I would like to add that my friend Dr Kethley had been residing and teaching in Alaska before moving to Molokai and had seen the Arctic Snowy owl there in its natural Arctic habitat. So when she sighted it in Molokai in the 60’s it was a surprise to see. Dr. Kethley knew what she was looking at.

Canyon Rainmaker

August 15, 2017

Hey Heidi!
Thank you so much for your article! I moved to the Big Island from New York City just a month ago, on July 14th. On my plane ride over I journaled that I was open and receptive to making contact with an animal to serve as a new spirit guide and animal totem for this new chapter of my life. On my first night, I was floating on my back in a pool stargazing, when from behind me swooped down a white owl about ten feet from my face. The owl then soared back up into the night sky, and was gone! No one else was around to witness this magical sight. It happened so fast and seemed so surreal, I almost convinced myself that I made it up. A snow owl in Hawaii?! Then the next morning I googled and found your blog post. I’ve also talked to a few others in and around Pahoa who have spotted the same. A month later, and I’m still reveling in this mystical experience and meditating on this powerful animal’s spirit. Thanks again for sharing! I am definitely checking off the option to be notified of followup comments! Blessings!

August 16, 2017

Aloha Rainmaker, It makes me happy to hear of your experience! You were so blessed! I was out looking this morning before light and did see a shooting star. I hope you are able to enjoy the solar eclipse this coming monday! Mahalo for commenting here on the Arctic Snowy Owls in Hawaii! Lets keep a record!

Hillary Webster

February 3, 2018

I was so glad to read about sightings of snowy owls in Hawaii! I, too, have seen a snowy owl … on Maui, in 2006. I was driving near Kailua, in the evening, with my brother and three children. The owl swooped in front of our windshield and missed being hit by a margin. Both my brother and I knew it was a snowy owl. The next day, I called the Hawaii Department of Forests and Wildlife to tell them of our sighting. They told me that snowy white owls had never been seen in Hawaii and that I must have mistaken it for another bird. I cannot, however, think of any other birds that are white, have a five foot wingspan and look like an owl! We know what we saw and thank you for posting other affirmations. Mahalo!

Wayne Pickard

February 8, 2018

I saw a large (5+ foot wing span) white owl on Oahu in 1989. We were driving on a road from Ewa Beach to Waipahu that had cane fields on both sides, don’t remember the name of the road. I think it’s all houses there now.

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