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Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl: Photo credit: Willistown Conservation Trust.

Snowy Owl: Photo credit: Willistown Conservation Trust.

Snowy Owl:

The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is an unusual selection to feature because it is not a resident of Kansas and seldom visits. But every 3-5 years, complex factors that cause the decline of Arctic lemmings (the snowy owl’s primary food) force these owls to venture south beyond their normal Canadian & Alaskan tundra in search of prey. This extensive migration away from their home range is referred to as an irruption. Many of these birds were observed in Kansas this past winter (2011-2012). Most of them were underweight and desperate for food. They are attracted to the Kansas prairie since it is similar to the broad expanse of tundra Snowies find suitable for hunting. However, some were killed flying into objects like cars, barbed wire fences and power lines that are uncommon in the arctic tundra. The Snowy Owl is a dramatic bird with piercing yellow eyes and its mostly white plumage concealing a black beak. The last Snowy Owl irruption occurred in 2009. A graph showing Snowy Owl sightings south of the arctic from 2008-2012 is available at ebird.org http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/the-winter-of-the-snowy-owl.

An excellent video is available at http://magblog.audubon.org/northern-states-see-rare-invasion-snowy-owls.