[CT Birds] 2 more cents in the Snowy jar

Mntncougar at aol.com Mntncougar at aol.com
Thu Dec 5 23:25:26 EST 2013

I agree with Arthur's comment that is seems odd we have not yet  seen any 
actual facts, statistics or opinions from workers in the field  where our 
wonderful Snowies breed. But in lieu of such data I have a couple of  thoughts 
on the subject. 
The timing: it seems to me this irruption is happening  extremely early in 
the winter season - its not even winter yet! This suggests to  me that the 
theory of an extraordinarily successful breeding season is correct,  but 
perhaps the idea of a sudden crash in the food supply is  not.
However, perhaps the reason the birds are moving south so soon  is not due 
to lack of food but lack of HUNTING TERRITORIES.  Owls are known  to have 
and protect their territories, sometimes very large ones. (I believe I  have 
seen this stated with regard to Great Horned and Barred Owls, I suspect  it's 
true but have no actual knowledge with regard to  Snowies).
As with just about all birds, the adults would let the  fledglings hang 
around over the summer,  help with feeding them, probably  even continue to 
teach them hunting, etc. But with the coming of fall they would  drive them out 
of the adults' established territories to fend for themselves. In  a normal 
year that might just mean moving a mile or 2 away, but with many more  
juveniles than usual there simply might not be enough vacant territories  
available. That would certainly cause a movement away from the breeding areas by  
some of the juveniles. I don't believe I have yet heard of a Snowy in Ct 
that is  not a probable juvenile. (I have seen reports of adults farther south  
I have no idea whether Ct provides a good suitable food supply  or not. The 
fact that the birds seem to be found almost entirely along the shore  
suggests that perhaps coastal food supplies are better because of numerous rats,  
etc. OR, since these birds are not normally migrants, perhaps they simply 
don't  know what to do once they hit the coast and can't go any farther 
south. It does  seem to me, however, that CT has a relatively abundant population 
of small  mammals, waterfowl, etc.
Just as a general fact, it is well known that mortality in  first year 
birds is very high relative to the overall population. So it should  be no shock 
that some of the birds are malnourished and do die from that and  from 
other causes, such as getting hit by cars, etc. This may have no direct  
relationship to the irruption.
I don't doubt that birds, including Snowies, can be stressed  out by excess 
human pressure, but the 2 birds I've seen this year were much  further away 
from human approach than it would seem reasonable would cause  stress. In 
fact, all the Snowies I have ever seen were pretty much the same - so  far it 
was difficult to impossible for people with ordinary photo equipment to  
get a decent (if any) pictures. It seems to me unreasonable to suggest that  
there would be much stress involved at such distances, and more likely that 
the  presence of humans didn't even register with the birds as a threat. 
The bird seen from Cedar Island while I was there was hundreds  of yards 
away from the platform and sat for hours, when it could simply have  flown 
away and found another perch. It looked back at us only occasionally, so I  
don't think we were perceived as a threat at all. And if it didn't hunt in all  
that time it must have been relatively well nourished
I look forward to hearing more about this entire situation and  seeing how 
it plays out over the winter. I certainly don't condone pestering  these 
owls or any other wildlife to the extent it causes any threat to their  
survival. But frankly, I'm sick of seeing humans automatically blamed for  
unfortunate results when they occur, even though there is no real evidence to  
support the claims. If a Snowy Owl flies into my car it is likely because cars  
don't exist in the environment they were reared in and they don't know how to 
 cope with them. But it is NOT MY FAULT.
Message to the owls: I live near a very nice lake, and if you  like 
shoreline property we would be glad to accommodate you here. But if it's  not to 
your liking, send some of the Red-tails, who are starving because of your  
presence, this way. I have enough squirrels in and near my yard that I  doubt 
they would ever run out, and my feeder birds would be very pleased if they  
were thinned out a little.  

Don  Morgan

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