The snowy owl, typically a resident of the Arctic, has been delving further south as of late, and has been spotted in parts of the New England region of the northeastern United States. The wayward owls have come south due to a phenomenon known as irruption, which is an abrupt increase in numbers of a species when natural ecological balances and checks are disturbed.
Larry Clarfeld from the North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, VT, stated, “The reason we are seeing so many snowy owls this year has everything to do with their food. So in the Arctic breeding ground, snowy owls like to eat lemmings and this past summer of 2013, there were so many lemmings in the Arctic that many young snowy owls were born but once winter came there wasn’t enough food for them to stay in the Arctic so we had them moving south in record numbers.”
Here is a clip regarding the migratory patterns of the powerful bird:
The snowy owl, or Bubo scandiacus is a robust owl, typical owl family Strigidae. It was first classified in 1758 by Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish father of binomial nomenclature, and is the official bird of the Canadian province of Quebec. Snowy owls nest in the Arctic tundra of the northernmost stretches of Alaska, Canada and Eurasia, though have been seen as far south as Texas, Georgia and the Gulf states.
Now is time time for New England birdwatchers to catch a glimpse of the snow-white predators, as they are returning north. Local birds such as crows and jays are threatened by birds of prey, and essentially attack the owls until they take off. Clarfeld commented, “And because they are a raptor they are going to be harassed by crows or blue jays or any number of other song birds that have already started to build their nests in Vermont right now.”
One can track the movement of snowy owls here, at Project Snow Storm.
Image via Wikimedia Commons