Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Second Wave of Snowy Owls May be Coming

We're experiencing what could be the largest-ever influx of Arctic Snowy Owls into the Northeast and the Great Lakes states. And more may be on the way. The killing of some owls at New York City airports has resulted in an outcry against the practice, which was deemed necessary to protect passengers after instances when owls were sucked into plane engines. Now that the Port Authority has announced it will move toward non-lethal trap and release methods, the logical question to ask is, "What next?"

Dr. Kevin McGowan, a biologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology says:

"We applaud the move by the Port Authority to pursue non-lethal methods of removing Snowy Owls from JFK and LaGuardia airports. This is essential to reduce risk to people, and it also preserves the lives of these magnificent raptors."

"The sudden influx of these birds, called an 'irruption,' may be the first wave. More Snowy Owls are poised to head south looking for food and will be attracted to wide open expanses, such as airports, because they resemble their native tundra. Now that we know this is happening, airports can prepare for it by connecting with local wildlife removal experts, as the Port Authority has done. In most cases, we'll be talking about a few birds per airport."

"More than likely these Snowy Owls are moving south from the Arctic because of a shortage of their favorite food up north-lemmings, or because of a bumper crop of young. We can expect them to stick around through early spring before they head back to the Arctic again."

"This year's Snowy Owl irruption is the largest we've seen in decades in the Northeast and this is an awesome opportunity for people to see these birds. A really great way to find out where they are in your area is to check out the live maps at eBird, which tracks reports of the Snowy Owls, at Snowy Owls are one of the most impressive animals on the planet. You don't have to be a bird watcher to appreciate how cool they are!"


Pat Leonard, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, (607) 254-2137
Snowy Owl still images, sound, and HD video available.