Friday, March 9, 2012

The Snowy Owl Makes Unexpected VIsits

Marion Pellicano Ambrose

One of the most beautiful, graceful and striking birds of North America is the Snowy Owl. Usually elusive to residents of the US, the Snowy Owl has suddenly been sighted by hundreds of bird watchers all over the United States. The New York Times reported on this unusual phenomena on January 23, 2012.  Denver Holt, director of the Owl Research Institute in Charlo, Mont, told reporters:
“There are so many across the country, everywhere, by the thousands,” Mr. Holt said. “It’s unbelievable. They are being seen from Boston, to the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Valley, Kansas, Vancouver and Seattle. One showed up at the airport in Hawaii, and they shot it, it’s the first ever in Hawaii and they shot it!”

The Snowy Owl spends   summers way up in the far reaches of the arctic, hunting lemmings and other small mammals to feed its hatching young. Once the coolness of fall begins sweeping through the arctic, it migrates further south down into the boreal forest of Canada and the northern reaches of the United States to settle in for the winter. Despite this, it still remains difficult to find for many birders. If not for the speckling of darker markings across its torso, wings, and head, it would be nearly impossible to see in the snow. Even with the help of its markings it, like many owls, will remain perched silently for hours on end.

However, its striking beauty and the fact that it is active during the day, make it a special treat for many birders. For those of you who have yet to see one, this just might be your year. Snowy Owl sightings have been sprouting up almost everywhere, it seems. As the Times article notes, Snowy Owls spottings are being reported by the dozens in places like Kansas and Missouri, where typical years will only produce a few. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently uploaded this video of Snowy Owls:


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