Thursday, December 12, 2013

Learn About Visiting Snowy Owls

Snowy OwlWe’re experiencing what could be the largest-ever influx of Arctic Snowy Owls into the Northeast and the Great Lakes states, and more may be on the way.  Dr. Kevin McGowan, a biologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,  says this may be the first wave and we should expect more.

“More than likely these Snowy Owls are moving south from the Arctic because of a shortage of their favorite food up north—lemmings, or because of a bumper crop of young,” he said, “We can expect them to stick around through early spring before they head back to the Arctic again.”

This year’s Snowy Owl irruption is the largest recorded in decades in the Northeast and is an excellent opportunity to see these birds, so here are a few online resources to get you up to speed on our latest high profile visitors.

You can learn more about the reasons behind the current “irruption” and see mapped sightings to guide your own viewing here. Additional articles about a similar irruption in 2011-12 can be found here and here.

Check out the All About Birds online guide, where you can learn more about Snowy Owls, and also hear what they sound like. Check out this MP3 sound file of a hooting male Snowy Owl for example.

A mini documentary on Snowy Owls produced in 2011 can be found here.

Cornell’s Macaulay Library has lots of raw Snowy Owl video in its online archive, including nesting owls feeding their young. Have a look.

If you’ve seen and photographed a Snowy Owl this winter, post it to our Facebook page and we’ll share it with our readers.

Photo of Snowy Owl by permission of Diane McAllister, Imprints of Nature.


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3 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    This is lucky for us. I was hunting a few years ago on a rainy miserable day wondering why I was crazy enough to be out in the woods on a day like that when a huge snowy owl came in and landed on a tree not ten feet away from me and on a branch that was eye level. It was the most beautiful bird I have ever seen. It had feet the size of an adults hands and the scariest looking talons. It was so close that this was easy to see. Then after just a minute or saw he (or she) saw me blink or something because away it went. I hope others get to see something similar with all these birds coming south. Not happy to hear that they are shooting them at JFK, but I also wouldn’t want to be on a plane that sucked one into its engine. Hopefully they can work with folks the lab of O at Cornell and find ways to capture and relocate any birds like they do at some other airports.

  2. chuck samul says:

    around 10 years ago while i was working for Conrail at the Selkirk Yards, we had a week long visit from a snowy owl. it was december as i recall, and the bird enjoyed perching on the protected window sill on the second floor of our division hq building. we would sit at the window and watch the owl fly up to within a few feet of us, apparently oblivious to, or at least not threatened by our presence behind the glass. we watched it hunt over the nearby fields and scrub forest. then one day the owl did not appear.

    re: snowy owls and airports – i seem to recall that Toronto has dealt with this issue for years by hiring falconers to come in with eagles that keep them on the ground during takeoffs.

    for those who are interested there is a national geographic special available on netflix that follows the breeding season of a pair of owls. we watched it a short while ago and it was excellent.

  3. […] Dr. Kevin McGowan, a biologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,  says… “More than likely these Snowy Owls are moving south from the Arctic because of a shortage of their favorite food up north—lemmings, or because of a bumper crop of young… We can expect them to stick around through early spring before they head back to the Arctic again.” (The Adirondack Almanack) […]