Snowy Owls Venturing South

Snowy Owls Venturing South

Beautiful Birds are Getting Themselves in Trouble

Snowy owls are taking some time off from the Arctic this winter. While some migration is typical, this 2011-2012 season they’re heading even further south. A few more hundred miles and they’ll hit sunny beaches. One did, in fact, make it to Hawaii, but it made a wrong turn at the airport and was shot.

Wherever they’re sighted (with the exception of Hawaii’s airport, apparently), they’re drawing the attention of bird watchers and the general public. They’re really causing a stir in Kansas and Missouri, as these beautiful white birds might typically forage across northern states, but have been seen soaring over the middle-of-the-U.S. regions.

In their native habitat, they hunt during the day, usually staking out a vantage point that’s low to the ground. From there, they’ll go after lemmings which make up a major portion of their diets. Other small creatures are up for grabs as well. When lemming populations take a dive - as they do every few years - then snowy owls go on the prowl.

A large snowy owl migration is also known as an ‘irruption” in technical terms. Like other creatures out of their element, some have not been so lucky. Reports include death tolls from cars along with power lines. Near Boston’s Logan airport, an effort is under way to relocate the arriving flock. Like other birds, they can cause life-endangering air traffic accidents if sucked into engines. That, of course, explains the single death in Hawaii, as an official took aim to prevent the errant bird from causing larger problems.

If you see a bundle of white feathers and glowing yellow eyes bearing down, just duck and enjoy the sighting.

Photo courtesy Bert de Tilly, Wikipedia CC license