[CT Birds] Snowy Owl discussion

Arthur Shippee ashippee at snet.net
Thu Dec 5 20:27:38 EST 2013

Thanks, Joseph, for helpful information and comment.  Your point that the preponderance of juveniles here suggests nesting over-success is interesting.  (I suppose that's one way populations can spread, when there's opportunity.)  I'm a bit surprised that no one seems to know off-hand if there was a surplus of food early:  surely someone's monitoring this?

Not considering humans as threats, given their normal range:  a plausible observation, along with their being juveniles.

What's too close?  Good question.  While I suppose we'd best like to err on the side of caution, your point about its being a teaching moment for non-birders is well-taken.  

On Dec 5, 2013, at 7:44 PM, Joseph Cala <Joejr14 at aol.com> wrote:

> All-
> 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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