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Snowy Owls on the Move!

A Snowy Owl at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge | Daniel Connell
A Snowy Owl at the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge | Dennis Connell

Many lucky birders across the northern part of the U.S. have been reporting larger-than-normal numbers of snowy owls in the last several days.

The majestic owls, made even more popular thanks to Harry Potter‘s famous pet Hedwig, have been spotted in southern New Jersey, Connecticut, and even Maryland.

For those who may not already know, these birds typically stay very close to the Arctic Circle even in the winter. They typically live in the upper latitudes of Canada, Siberia, and Russia.

In 2011, Snowy Owl descended en masse into the United States, mainly in the Pacific Northwest and Great Plains. But this year, they’ve been  spotted in Syracuse, N.Y., Hampton Bays region on Long Island, the Sandy Hook peninsula in Monmouth County, and even Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. And the reports keep coming in.

Birders all over the country have been reporting their sightings on ebird.com and we encourage you do the same if you are one of the lucky ones that spots one of these beautiful birds. Or if you are interested to see where the Snowy Owls are camping out, ebird has a map that tracks all of the sightings.

Unfortunately, these owls are causing some problems with aircraft safety. They are appearing in much higher numbers than usual at airports, and are known to get caught in the plane engines causing flight delays. At JFK, their solution was to shoot the birds. Conservationists and the American Birding Association were far less than pleased with this solution. Thankfully, they are now implementing a program at the airport to trap and relocate the birds to ensure safety for the birds and the planes.

Click here for a video report on the situation.

National Wildlife Refuges are some of the best places to catch a glimpse of these birds. Edward B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Galloway New Jersey is one of the lucky refuges to have a snowy owl population on its grounds. At least 20 individuals have been reported!

Don Freiday, Forsythe NWR’s visitor services manager and park ranger believes the owls are here as a result of a food shortage or a population explosion. He said that either way, “this is the most that has ever been in New Jersey in my lifetime.”

Others are still unclear and think there may be something wrong in their Arctic habitat. In an article by By Wynne Parry, LiveScience Contributor, Norman Smith, explains that the owls appear to be in good condition indicating it is not a problem with a food shortage. Smith, who catches and relocates Snowy Owls also says that transmitters attached to them reveal that they are capable of returning to the Arctic.

Could this year’s event be a result of climate change? As our climate continues to change- getting colder in some areas, and warmer in others- species are shifting their ranges all over. The snowy owl could be one of those species.

 

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

For more information about the Snowy Owls at the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, click HERE.
To see the where the Snowy Owls have landed and to report your own sighting, visit ebird.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2013/12/snowy-owls-on-the-move/

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