[CT Birds] Snowy Owl discussion

Joseph Cala Joejr14 at aol.com
Thu Dec 5 19:44:33 EST 2013


Interesting continuing conversation on the Snowy Owl topic.  I was going 
to get into some of what Keith posted in my post the other night, but 
felt it best not to make a novel out of my post.

The fact is there is really no way to 100% determine the cause of this 
year's irruption.  Obviously there reason for the irruption is a lack of 
food, but the question is why is there a lack of food.  In doing some 
research for my post last night I found numerous sources that stated a 
typical Snowy Owl clutch is a few birds--and during lemming booms 
Snowy's routinely will have clutches of up to SEVEN (AlaskaZoo suggests 
16!).  If there was a lemming boom this past summer, we could be 
conservatively looking at up to 5x the amount of young Snowy's looking 
for food.  Based on the pictures and reports from various states it 
surely appears that a very large percentage of the irrupted birds are 
juveniles--this would tend to suggest the irruption is in fact due to 
very successful clutch/hatchling results.  I realize that it's 
frustrating seeing these birds not doing well, but keep in mind they are 
a species of Least Concern and have a fairly stable population estimate 
of 300,000.

A couple of additional things I'd like to comment on that have been 
brought up.  I would argue that being able to read a bird is not by 
using 'human logic or behavior patterns', but rather animal behavior 
logic.  Animals in the wild simply do not turn their back on what they 
consider to be a threat for prolonged periods of time.  I think it also 
needs to be brought up that these birds nest in the far north tundra and 
many of these birds have never seen humans--they very well may not 
consider people as a threat in the way that they would a wolf, arctic 
fox, eagle, etc.

I also think that suggesting that people not look or observe them is on 
the extreme side.  As has been brought up here before (and elsewhere) 
Snowy Owls are a bird that makes 'non-birders' stop and ask questions, 
and genuinely enjoy the view.  I showed several people at work 
(definitely non-birders) the pictures I took from Milford Point and they 
were astounded that such a creature even existed--and said they would 
love to see one.  Exposure and added interest to birding is only going 
to increase awareness and support down the road.

Two final question as I've seen this now brought up countless 
times--what exactly does everyone consider to be 'too close' to a Snowy 
Owl?  And why the major restriction with getting 'close' to a Snowy Owl 
but it's perfectly acceptable for a group of 20 people to be within 25 
feet from a Fork-tailed Flycatcher?

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