A Winter Boom of Snowy Owls Masks a Host of Climate Threats
With their powdery white feathers and haunting yellow eyes, snowy owls are one of the most iconic animals of the Arctic. They’re also one of the only ones that makes regular visits into the non-Arctic, with jaw-dropping owl blizzards making regular appearances in southern Canada and the northern United States during their annual winter migration.
This year we’ve been witnessing a “mega-irruption”—an irregular, dramatic migration—with owls sighted in places as far-flung as New York state and Odessa, Texas, and even atop the U.S. Department of Agriculture building in Washington, DC. Needless to say, bird enthusiasts are having a field day.
Yet this seeming abundance of snowies masks the unfortunate fact that these charismatic birds are in more danger than ever before. Exactly what threats they’re facing has been tough to suss out, because snowy owls don’t have easy-to-trace regular migrations; they’re “highly nomadic at all points in their life cycle,” says Scott Weidensaul, a Pennsylvania naturalist and owl researcher who runs a program to track these birds on their far-flung travels.
Read more at Smithsonian.com.