Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Snowy Owl irruption
Already this winter is looking fantastic for birders, thanks to snow reported in Oregon, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and even in Central Indiana- snowy owls, that is. According to eBird sightings, an "irruption" (These are called "irruption years." Irruption means "to increase irregularly.") of snowy owls is spreading south into the United States, bringing these stately birds far from their traditional northern territories.
Hundreds of snowy owls are winging south from the Arctic looking for food, many of them dying of exhaustion, starvation and dehydration soon after they arrive.
Bird "irruptions"are not unusual during the winter months when nomadic species spread out far and wide in search of food, but they are often unpredictable. Raptor irruptions are highly anticipated and can be a phenomenal experience for birders who may never see these northern birds in the expected range. Birders finding these erupting snowy owls, however, should practice rare bird ethics to help protect the birds in unfamiliar territory.
Arctic researchers are suggesting that this year, lemming populations were very high, leading to a successful breeding season for snowy owls," Haas said. "With this big population explosion, competition on their typical wintering grounds is pushing birds, primarily inexperienced youngsters, into the lower 48 (states). This seems to be reflected in what birds are being seen in the U.P. this fall with only a few adults observed."