There have been relatively few sightings of snowy owls for many years, which is perhaps why their sudden reappearance in the United States and Canada has so many people beside themselves with excitement. They have been found sitting atop picket fences on estates in New York, they are lingering outside of Wal-Marts in places like Indiana and they have even made their way to Detroit.
As Project SNOWstorm’s Scott Weidensaul explains, snowy owls have always captured the imagination of the public and they are dearly loved creatures.
“They’re really amazing. They’re big, beautiful, charismatic, sexy.”
It is Weidensaul’s job with his organization to track these magical birds each passing year to see where they migrate to, according to Atlas Obscura. And this year they might be heading your way.
During the heat of the summertime, snowy owls retreat to the Arctic up north. While there, they enjoy nibbling on lemmings, and these lemmings experience massive baby booms approximately every four years or so, guaranteeing plenty of food for the snowy owl. Scott Weidensaul admits that we don’t know yet just how these snowy owls are able to learn when a big lemming peak will be coming.
“We don’t know how snowy owls know where the lemming peak is happening, but somehow they do.”
The record breaking irruption of #SnowyOwls continues in the Cleveland region and the Great Lakes. 10 different Snowy Owls were recently found on the breakwall off of downtown Cleveland, with more turning up at Lakefront Reservation… https://t.co/eyKoeijbIy ❄️???? pic.twitter.com/cgucLwHOin
— Cleveland Metroparks (@clevemetroparks) December 5, 2017
When it’s been a really good year for food, snowy owls celebrate and “lay a lot of eggs and have lots and lots of babies,” as Weidensaul says. Because of this, about every four years these grown snowy owls leave the Arctic and head down south, something that is known as an irruption.
Of course, some of these southern journeys for snowy owls are much bigger and bolder than others, including a recent one in which these majestic birds even made it into Florida and Bermuda.
“We had a massive irruption in the East and the Great Lakes about four years ago—the biggest since at least the 1920s. There was one in Jacksonville, Florida, and another in Bermuda.”
The most recent invasion of snowy owls in the United States and Canada means that places like the Upper Midwest and the region of the Great Lakes is seeing the majority of these birds, yet numerous snowy owls have also been spotted in the Mid-Atlantic region as well as New England.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources notes that snowy owls are so popular that J.K. Rowling even appropriated this bird as Harry Potter’s magical helper, as Fox19 reported.
“Snowy owls are in the public eye as Hedwig, Harry Potter’s pet owl, is of this species.”
If you’re curious for where best to search for snowy owls, Naturalist Jen Brumfield suggests looking around power poles, lakefronts and light posts, although lately they have been appearing in all sorts of unusual places and even on the tops of cars, as Twitter posters have seen.
It’s a snowy owl invasion in Michigan, even in downtown Detroit… pic.twitter.com/KEVKrI3Gym
— Susan Whitall (@swhitall) December 7, 2017
If you’re a bird enthusiast and fancy spotting some snowy owls, the huge influx of them traveling through the United States and Canada this year should hopefully make it easier for you.