[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.
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