Arctic Snow Owls are staging an incredible invasion southwards with sightings coming in from Atlantic Canada, the northeastern U.S. and Great Lakes, several as south as North Carolina and one pioneering out to sea as far as Bermuda.
The southward move in record numbers of the snowy owls is being driven for the hunt for food. Normally the owls don’t go any further than the Great Lakes but this year, they’re heading south more than ever.
According to EBirds.org there could be a couple of reasons why so many snowy owls are migrating towards sunnier climes.
Lemming population cycles are a huge driver of the survivorship and breeding success of snowy owls and in the past, snowy owls will skip breeding seasons whey prey is scarce and produce large clutches, (up to 9 eggs!) when prey is abundant.
In recent cycles, the lemming population has dropped but experts believe the arctic snow owls have been busy breeding, despite the loss of one of its favourite food source. That search for food is likely the reason why they’re being spotted elsewhere. The range of snow owls can be 1,000 kilometres over the Arctic during the summer and these owls can move.
They’re actually showing up in such abundance at airports for some reason that the New York Port Authority has brought in wildlife specialists to hunt and kill the owls after one was sucked into an airplane turbine. But after an outcry, the port authority opted to cage them and release them elsewhere instead.
Photo credit: EBirds/Ryan Schain