When we get hungry, we head to the refrigerator or pantry. When the stock gets low we head to the grocery store. Birds, like owls, don’t have the luxury of the grocery store. When food sources are low, owls move to “greener” pastures. That is exactly what is happening this winter with Snowy Owls.
Snowy Owls live in the Arctic feasting on their mainstay food source of lemmings. Lemmings, in the rodent family, have been described as little sausages with legs. When there are not enough lemmings and other prey to feed the owl population then the owls irrupt southward looking for more abundant food source.
It seems there was an abundance of lemmings during the owls’ breeding season last spring. In response, the owls laid more eggs than usual and the newly hatched owlets thrived. With winter’s approach, it seems there was not enough food sources to feed the increased population of owls. This caused many Snowies to leave, or irrupt south, to find food.
Like other owls, Snowy Owls have very good eyesight and hearing for hunting. They eat small rodents and rabbits as well as small birds and waterfowl like ducks and grebes. They will even catch fish to eat. They mostly hunt from a perch sitting and waiting for prey.
The Snowy Owls are expected to start moving back to the Arctic breeding grounds in February. They have been seen as far south as Oklahoma. Be sure to find out if they are in your area. Click here to see a dynamic map of January sightings on eBird.org.
What birds have you seen lately that seem out of the ordinary?