Every so often, snowy owls, normally inhabitants of the Arctic, ‘irrupt’ into territory much farther south. That’s happening this year, in one of the biggest migrations south in decades, with sitings of the owls across New York and Pennsylvania and all along the Northeast seaboard states.
Researchers aren’t certain why the owls suddenly burst out of their usual borders, but they suspect it’s related to a bumper crop of owlets last summer. They’re using the opportunity to tag and track the nocturnal predators.
Tagging is allowing scientists and birders with Project SNOWstorm to study the behavior of the Arctic owls, where they travel and how they hunt. Here, for instance, is tracking information on an owl tagged in Erie, PA.
The project, organized this year, is funded by groups from Wisconsin through the Delmarva area.
“An irruption like this is unlikely to happen again in our lifetimes, and that’s why we’re pulling out all the stops,” explained Scott Weidensaul, a Schuylkill County natural history writer who has led projects on the owls for the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art in Millersburg,PA.