Snowy Owl Irruption in Michigan

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)_0314_1

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)_0314_1, photo by johndykstraphotography.

We’ve been seeing a lot of snowy owls this winter in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr. These 2′ birds are native to the Arctic tundra, but they’ve been sighted in large numbers in Michigan this winter. Snowy owls flock to Mich. in unusual numbers in USA Today explains:

Scientists say the likely reason for the explosion is that the owls’ chief food source, small animals called lemmings, was abundant last summer, allowing the adults to raise more young. Now, in search of food, young owls are heading farther south.

Although there are a few snowy owls spotted in Michigan every year, “I can tell you this winter is highly unusual,” said Karen Cleveland, bird biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

…The phenomenon is called an irruption, an invasion of birds in unusual places or in high numbers. It usually occurs because of a lack of food in the birds’ home territory.

They even talk with photographer Stacy Niedzwiecki about her snowy owl photos, which we featured on Michigan in Pictures a few months ago!

The Snowy Owl page at All About Birds notes that they are the northernmost, heaviest, and most distinctively marked owl of North America, and that an individual adult Snowy Owl may eat three to five lemmings per day, or up to 1,600 per year! While this irruption means that there are many more owls than usual in Michigan, they are a common wintertime visitor.

John captured this owl in Muskegon County earlier this month. See it bigger and see more in his Snowy Owl slideshow.

More Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures!

3 thoughts on “Snowy Owl Irruption in Michigan

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