Snowy owls, typically seen in Arctic regions, are traveling south to places such as Michigan, Kansas, and even Texas in greater numbers this winter, delighted birdwatchers say.
“What we’re seeing now — it’s unbelievable.This is the most significant wildlife event in decades,” Reuters reported Denver Holt the head of the Owl Research Institute as saying.
According to experts, it is normal for the 2-foot-tall owls to fly south from their breeding grounds each winter but this year’s great number is rare even during the large-scale periodic southern migrations known as irruptions.
Although this winter’s snowy owl outbreak remains largely a mystery of nature, speculation has been that the strange phenomenon is probably due to a lack of food – generally lemmings – in the birds’ traditional habitat.
“There’s a lot of speculation. As far as hard evidence, we really don’t know,” Holt said.
Holt added that 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. Adding to the plausibility of this theory were reports in Michigan that the owls had been eating small voles, mice and rabbits.
Whatever the cause, bird enthusiasts are overjoyed and have been traveling in record numbers to areas where the owls have been spotted just to get a rare glimpse of the beautiful visitors.
“There`s something about a snowy owl for a bird watcher. It`s kind of neat in the middle of the winter because there`s not many birds around. There`s a big, white owl sitting on a bench post out in the open, quietly gazing around. It`s always something that a birder loves to see,” said Corey Ellingson with the N.D. Birding Society.
Have there been any Snowy Owl sightings in your state? Let us know in the comment section below.