Snowy owl sightings have soared in the lower 48 states of the U.S. this year, the news agency Reuters said on January 28, 2012.
In Northern Hemisphere winter of 2012, thousands of birders have reported seeing the beautiful Arctic white owls, known to many in the fictional books of Harry Potter as the magical familiar Hedwig.
Denver Holt, head of the Owl Research Institute in Montana, has studied snowy owls in their Arctic tundra ecosystem for two decades. He told Reuters:
What we’re seeing now – it’s unbelievable.
This is the most significant wildlife event in decades.
For the real snowy owls, researchers say the drive for food is likely behind their increased migrations south. They observed that snowy owls have hatched unusually large clutches last season, up to seven owl chicks compared to the more normal two.
An abundance of their favorite food, rodents and lemmings in particular, yielded the large clutches. The younger owls, mostly male, have migrated south throughout 2012 to avoid competition. More snowy owls migrating has led to the increased sightings. Wildlife experts report the owls are often found malnourished and in poor health from these extended migrations.
Bottom Line: Snowy owl sightings have soared in the lower 48 states of the U.S. in early 2012, spurred on by a booming population and lack of food in their Arctic habitat.
Jorge Salazar has conducted thousands of in-depth interviews with scientists in the process of creating science content for EarthSky. He also helps host the 90-second EarthSky podcasts. Jorge has a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He knows a lot about a lot of different things. For EarthSky, he has explored subjects as diverse as nanotechnology, ecosystem-based management, climate change, global health, international environmental treaties, astrophysics and cosmology, and environmental security. His penetrating research style, poetic writing, and ability to track down and speak with Nobel prize-winning laureates, all make him a huge asset to EarthSky.