A rare mass migration of snowy owls has bird enthusiasts traveling from Texas, Arizona and Utah to see the two-foot birds that normally spend their time looking for food in the Arctic tundra. The influx of thousands of snowy owls has been documented by many appearances in Michigan, Idaho, Montana, Missouri, Kansas, the Pacific Northwest and Massachusetts. Some have also made it as far south as Texas, and one may have ventured all the way to Hawaii.
“What we’re seeing now — it’s unbelievable. This is the most significant wildlife event in decades,”
said owl researcher Denver Holt. (Source: Reuters) The one in Hawaii was the first to ever appear there, but was shot by federal officials because they said it was near an airport and might interfere with planes landing and taking off.
Called an irruption, this very unusual mass migration of snowy owls isn’t fully understood yet. Speculation has been they are flying further south due to a lack of food – generally lemmings – in their traditional habitat. Another possibility is that right before the sudden absence of lemmings, the owls had a very productive breeding season, so there are far more of them than usual, and they were forced too hunt outside their normal range. It was reported in Michigan they have been eating small voles, mice and rabbits.
The irruption has been predicted to end by late March or early April, so if you are interested in traveling to an area where they might be seen there is still time. In Kansas ninety snow owls have appeared, and in Missouri there have been forty, with the previous high being eight. If you are interested in seeing them, it might be beneficial to carefully research online first, as there has already been one ‘owl jam’, with thousands of people arriving in the same area to see the rare visitors.
Snowy owls are protected by law, and it is advised to keep a safe distance from them so they don’t get scared, because in that state they use burn energy and some of them are already in a compromised state due to lack of food. Some of the owls have been found dead, and starvation was the cause.
Image Credit: Floyd Davidson/ Wiki Commons