A Bird Flies South, and It’s News

A large, charismatic white owl has been seen far from its usual wintering zones, even as far south as Florida. But what does it mean?

Comments: 76

  1. A snowy owl was discovered near Brevard NC, terribly underweight and in need of care. She is being nursed back to health by a wild life group in the area. It has been huge news here in Western North Carolina. Interesting to learn this is occurring in other unexpected places.

  2. What incredibly gorgeous birds! I know there have been some seen here in Ohio as well. I've never seen a Snowy, but when the weather is warm enough to open a window at night, I can lay in bed and hear the hoot of a Great Horned Owl that likes to perch in the Maple tree outside my window. Owls are awesome.

  3. When I sit in my kitchen late at night, I can hear a great horned owl as well. It never fails to raise the hair on the back of my neck! Sometimes I hear the call and response of a mating pair. Last fall, I had the most magical experience. I arrived home from work at that moment when there is just the tiniest bit of light in the sky, but it is almost dark. I was startled to hear a soft "hoo huh hoo" sound. I looked up to see a pair of great horned owls landing on telephone wire briefly and then take off for nearby trees. Their silhouettes were gorgeous and I felt like I had just been visited by ethereal fairies, I stood there, transfixed, hoping they would fly back. My brother-in-law calls them "flying footballs", which is a humorous way to describe them and I agree they do have a football shape. But I like my fairy image better.

  4. I sure would love to see one here in NJ. We have many great horned owls around here, but I rarely see one, as they are night hunters. Owls are amazing birds to observe.

  5. Jen D -

    I saw one in Northern NJ in 2012.

  6. Here's a link to an article about snowy owls being spotted in northern NJ in 2013/2014: http://www.northjersey.com/recreation/242705361_Birders_delighted_by_sno...

    Per excerpts from the article - "For New Jersey birders, the winter of 2013-14 will go down as the season of the snowy owl.

    By one estimate, as many as 80 . . . have flown down to New Jersey since late November in search of winter hunting grounds. In Bergen County, there's been a sighting in Teterboro and many in Lyndhurst — including at least two snowies providing wonderful looks as they perched on the ice and walkway railings at DeKorte Park earlier this month.

    Snowies . . . have also been seen at the Wanaque Reservoir in Passaic County and the Picatinny Arsenal Golf Course in Morris County. In all, they've been seen in 19 of New Jersey's 21 counties (Camden and Warren are the two exceptions)."

  7. They have been spotted in many locations in NJ, including the Forsythe NWR.

  8. I remember seeing a snowy owl or two when I was a boy in the 1940s. As I recall it was a severe winter. Lack of food in their usual haunts was the explanation given, but that is a common sense answer, perhaps accurate and perhaps not. I have never forgotten the sight of that magnificent bird.

  9. Is the snowy white owl telling us that Japan's nuclear leakage has far reaching effects that are first noted by some creatures who perhaps have unusual sensitivities to nuclear poisoning?

    Even though our leaders refuse to deal with the vast number of pollutants the human race is unleashing on the globe, we cannot escape their effects indefinitely. If the warnings of world changes from the snowy white owls and the snowy white polar bears are not enough, we not-so-snowy-white humans may soon find ourselves facing conditions we could have avoided if we had awakened to what our snowy white friends have been telling us.

  10. Key stone predators are often a good gauge of pollutions in the ecosystem.

    As far back as 1962, when Rachel Carson noted DDT harming the American Eagle, human pollutions discharged in large quantities and even small quantities of so-to-decay pollutions can harm ecosystems.

    Considering humans are also keystone predators, pollution harm that befalls polar bears, American eagles and other species are equally damaging to humankind.

  11. "s the snowy white owl telling us that Japan's nuclear leakage has far reaching effects that are first noted by some creatures who perhaps have unusual sensitivities to nuclear poisoning?"

    Not sure where you get that. The snowy white owl is telling us that this is one of the coldest winters in decades. In case you didn't get that.

  12. Reading this makes me incredibly sad. I have noticed that in the past 25 years the bird populations in the Bay Area have dropped in numbers. It seems like the trees are mostly empty. Not a whole lot of birds around except for pigeons and seagulls in certain areas. For migrating birds, I pray for their safety and thank the people like Mr. Smith who are doing what they can to relocate the birds to safer locations.

  13. You could be seeing signs of the drought and fewer birds but a few years back West Nile Virus killed off many birds in Southern California including a lot of Scrub Jays and Crows. The populations here have rebounded but there are consequences. As Jays move move into new habitats they tend to impact Thrashers. West Nile was carried by mosquitoes so the drought may hinder that mechanism.

    Lately there's been Ravens around Pasadena and they weren't common a friend of mine tells me, and he's lived here for many decades. Some gulls do well because of food-waste and trash-dumps like pigeons do.

    The bird count in your area says that there may be a new record for the count. The Xmas bird count came up with 183 species, but it hasn't been finalized. The number of individuals were low. They blamed the drought too. http://baynature.org/2013/12/30/new-record-san-francisco-christmas-bird-...

    One sighting was a Gray Catbird. I used to hear them in the South when I was kid in the 60s but I haven't heard one since. You never see them but when they're there you hear them.

    More important were the remarks from actual contact with the owls - the birds were skinny. That doesn't mean it isn't pollution but the radiation from Japan isn't going to show up in Snowies - they eat rodents, not fish. Fish tested by UW researchers found tiny amounts. This could be CO2 pollution though.

    Let's fund science & our Parks so we can pinpoint the mechanisms and not let our fears decide what's happening.

  14. lightscientist66-

    There have been unusually large numbers of these owls in the lower mainland of BC (Vancouver area) for the last couple of years.

    Most of them are very thin too. Seeing a lot of them may indicate that they are not doing well.

  15. Nancy, of course they're not doing well. They eat lemmings and are found on the tundra.

    Ann is talking about the birds in the SF Bay Area. The Xmas count found a high number of species there. West Nile Virus killed a lot birds in California in the Summers, but the good thing is that there are a lot of species.

    You can bet that West Nile Virus isn't making the owls leave their preferred habitat since that's tundra. It's a lack of enough food for the population that is there. Young birds are the ones that have to compete for hunting grounds. These owls are probably starving.

    Climate Change is causing species to find new areas to colonize but it isn't from the Arctic, species are moving North in this hemisphere and to higher elevations. The owls that have gone as far South as the Carolinas are not going to be colonizing new areas. They are most likely done for. Snowy Owls are not known for lengthy migrations.

  16. Why would birds, such as this one, fly south to presumably warmer weather because their normal territory is warming due to climate change? This lacks logic. Perhaps the only reason these birds are being found further south is the weather patterns and winds pushing cold air south, farther than "normal", and these birds are simply following that weather pattern. Years of study are needed to determine the cause of such migration, one cannot determine it from anecdotal evidence such as this.

  17. Our poor global friends. We have got to take better care of our planet.
    Everything's getting all mixed up and trying so hard to make their lives still work.
    Think of all the mishaps that we don't know about due to human carelessness.

  18. There's a word for this phenomenon: irruption.

  19. In recent weeks, I have seen snowy owls quite a few times in Brooklyn. They are a magnificent sight to see. I consider this to be a once in a lifetime experience.

    BTW, Jen, unlike some other owls, they are NOT nocturnal. They can be awake and active both day and night. There are quite a few in New Jersey I am sure. Check out the shore areas and large parks. If you search the internet, you may be able to see where they've been spotted.

  20. Interesting point about this owl being active in daytime. It makes sense; there is little to no night in the Arctic in summer.

  21. They have arrived in numbers on Cape Cod. My first thought was that they had learned something of the summer tourist hordes and had mistaken these for the lemmings that are their basic food source back up there in the Arctic.

  22. If you spend enough time on hiking trails and in wildlife refuge areas, you'll be rewarded. I saw a snowy owl in a Rhode Island wildlife area years ago and didn't know what it was until I saw a stuffed one in the visitors center. In the California foothills I came upon some wild turkeys strutting along a trail.

  23. Have seen wild turkeys twice along roads in Westchester County.

  24. In an (dubious) effort to increase human air safety, the USDA-Wildlife Services each summer rounds up molting Canada geese and goslings (all flightless at this time) and sends them to slaughter. I have been involved with GooseWatchNYC, an organization that sheds light on and hopes to prevent this slaughter of geese (and other waterfowl such as mute swans) that live around NYC airports. Last year, Snowy Owls were also targeted. Thankfully, public outrage at the shootings helped stop them.

    But the sad truth is that anything that is a nuisance to us humans, no matter how beautiful or cute or threatened, we find little reason not to kill. While the birds are being relocated now, I fear that soon they will be targeted again.

  25. Why don't you start RatWatchNYC while you are at it? Makes as much sense. For people who have not had geese invade their lives and s--- all over, you are lucky. I remember a time - years ago now - when geese were only seen briefly in the spring and fall. They migrated between Canada (summer) and the Delmar peninsula (winter). Their permanent settlement in USDA zones 5 and 6 was for me one of the first clear signs of climate change.
    If snowy owls proliferate they are likely to bring with them their own set of disturbances of the existing ecosystem.

  26. I have lived in Northern Virginia for the past 10 years in the same house. Every winter I keep full about 10 tube feeders and suet boxes for the different wood peckers. I kept a book close to identify birds I had never seen because of the enormous variety that showed up and stayed around for a while. There were so many that I would refill the feeders every 2 days. This winter I've refilled twice. Mostly sparrows. The crows are still here but seem to be in smaller numbers as well.

  27. They may be down here closer to Hampton Roads. This week we've had at least three varieties of woodpecker, plus house finches, mourning doves, blue jay, wrens, black-capped whatevers, the whole gang.

  28. Why is this a bad thing? Us humans started off in Africa and now cover the earth and we have thrived exceptionally well.

  29. Yes, we've thrived so exceptionally well that we're in the midst of a species extinction episode comparable to past asteroid impacts - but it's all from human causes.

    Where ever humans have migrated to, animals have gone extinct and people have shortsightedly destroyed the environments they were depending on. We don't seem to be very good at foresight. Read Jared Diamond's book "Collapse."

    Recent news headlines: Monarch butterfly numbers drastically down, penguin chicks dying from unusually abundant rain, ocean acidification, etc.

    The planet is essentially screaming out warnings of potential ecological collapse, which biologists have tried to alert people and governments to, but for the most part we continue in our over-consuming ways. Changing those ways would upset huge profit-making corporations, which seem to control our government, and millions of dollars are spent by the likes of the Koch brothers in support of climate change denialism.

    What will it take to really wake people up to this increasingly obvious danger?

  30. "...as they are night hunters." Quite right. This takes me back some years to the winter's night I was heading to my class on campus from a distant parking lot. It was cold--hey, it's northern Ontario in January--and I had on my white touque with a round furry white tassle on top. All was going well as I walked along when suddenly I was aware of quick movement just on the edge of peripheral range. A snowy owl had come to take a closer look at what must have seemed like a possible lunch, but, being mistaken, sheered off at the last moment to look somewhere else. No sound, not much of a good look either. A closer than really comfortable encounter with one of nature's better predators and a magnificent looking bird.

  31. Where I am, on Eastern Long Island, everyone is excited about the snowy owls. By everyone, I mean professionals and hobbyists: environmentalists, naturalists, birders, etc. I can't help but think something is wrong. If we are seeing such a dramatic change in the normal course of wildlife behavior, this has to be for unnatural reasons. As I observe people taking nature walks and looking for these owls, I wonder, why? Why, instead, are you not concerned about our ecosystem and what might have gone awry?

  32. So you would prefer people stay home and quiver with anxiety about the ecosystem, rather than go out and see a bird they probably have never seen before? It is possible to be concerned about the environment *and* be excited to see a magnificent snowy owl.

  33. The canary in the coal mine, perhaps?

  34. Global warming cultists are no different than those other doomsday "the end. Is near" nuts. Anxiously looking at the heavens, waiting for the end to come.

  35. My crew and I saw a snowy owl at the Rochester, NY airport as we were loading a MD-10 cargo plane. It flew pretty low over us, maybe 20 0r 30 feet up, and perched on a filthy snowbank by the ramp. Initially we thought it was a gull as there are many of those drawn by the Burger King trash across the road from the airport. But as it swooped and landed on the snowbank we easily identified it as a snowy. What a bird! Huge! And they run quietly on rodent fuel-- in stark contrast to the unspeakably loud, dirty plane we were loading whose burning of fossil fuel is surely contributing to these and other birds' puzzling migrations.

  36. We have a group of snowy owls that come back each year to the area around our airport, Hancock International. Luckily, the birds haven't caused any problems for the aircraft and visa versa.

  37. Weather is such a dominant force for birds, then we add human impact in various ways. In 1974, I was still a farmer/rancher living in North Dakota and we experienced a devastating winter storm approaching historical scale in that there were hurricane-force winds in the mid-70 mph range along with limited snow cover and bitter cold; this led to the storm being labeled the "snirt" storm of the century, a combination of snow and dirt mixed together to create a deadly combination to both livestock and wildlife that suffered debilitating and deadly lung problems along with the effects of the cold. Bird populations plummeted for years following the storm, similar to a truly historic blizzard of 1966. Combined with increased use of pesticides, many species of birds dwindled to near-oblivion; some have never recovered, while others have somewhat due to more sophisticated farming methods. But weather, as a natural phenomenon as storms and now climate change, will always have an impact. This is being communicated to us in part in this instance through migration changes in the snowy owl...all part of adding to our knowledge as well as warning us of the fragility of beautiful nature.

  38. During one winter in the 1940's in the Kearny, N.J. meadowlands I often saw a huge snowy owl flying about with a spring loaded muskrat trap clamped to one foot with the chain dangling down. I wished that I could have caught it so to remove the trap but unable to presumed it eventually died as a result.

  39. When I was a child a snowy owl was sighted near my home in Haddonfield, NJ. I remember my mother's great excitement at seeing it, and my unsuccessful attempt to find it. This would have been in the late 60's or early 70's. I don't recall the explanation for this out of range appearance. Perhaps there is some cyclical phenomenon.

  40. Maybe the polar vortex's extended spirals deposited them all over the lower 48.

    I have a hard time seeing this as a benign or trifling happy circumstance. If a bird who's natural habitat has traditionally been the Arctic Circle is suddenly appearing in places like Florida and Bermuda, I really can't believe anything good is going on to the far north. This is one of those environmental occurrences that seems nice from a naive point of view, and incredibly ominous when seen with a view of an incredibly frigid winter in the midwest, northeast and atlantic seaboard, and the worst drought on record in California and the west since I was a little boy.

    "Oh how great to see them!" Who are we kidding?

  41. A real possibility - the polar vortex driving them south, as it has driven cold weather south. The polar vortex is an event that has been recorded as early as 1853. It is a cyclone in the northern and southern hemispheres. It is not 'new.'

    As far as the drought in CA and the west... could that be from consumption? As building continues in desert climates, the water use sky rockets. Primarily because a desert doesn't have much water and when you bring it in for irrigation, pools, etc. it evaporates quickly.

    We really should consider the impact of raising the lands and bringing water to deserts as the driving issue. Climate change is a popular term for everything, but is not the answer to most. It's more complex and political mis-use is why so many out there do not believe the claims.

  42. Global climate change - that is what is happening. They indeed are the canary in the coal mine, but it doesn't matter anymore....nothing is really changing except our planet.

  43. And we are considering building the Keystone pipeline. Shame on us!!!!

  44. I am no expert, but all the experts I've heard say that the birds only come south when their food up north is insufficient. The birds that have been found in our area have been suffering from starvation. Even with medical intervention, they are often beyond help and die.

    They are beautiful and it is breathtaking to see them...but it is even more breathtaking to realize that we are seeing them because they are starving.

  45. C. Dawkins wrote "...all the experts I've heard say that the birds only come south when their food up north is insufficient." That makes logical sense.
    So, I was confused by this statement in the article--"No one is sure why so many snowies are showing up in so many places — whether it can be attributed to more food in their Arctic habitats than usual, or climate change at the top of the world." Why would they migrate South if they had more food than usual? Was this a typo error in the article?

  46. I am very sad to read that they are starving. I hope humans intervene to help them. In the NYC area, we certainly have plenty of rats and mice for the owls to eat.

  47. more canaries literally in the coal-mine.

  48. We are the birdbrains for not understanding how much we have to change--the owls are the wise ones trying to tell us.

  49. I can remember when I was about 10 yrs old seeing many Snowy Owls where I live in Northern Michigan (16 miles South East of the Mighty Mac Bridge) ! We had a unusual cold and snowy winter and it was even worse to the far North ! The Snowy lived in our barn the whole winter that year ! My Dad said it was because there was no available food for the owl in his (or her) normal habitat ! It was an amazing and beautiful thing to watch the owl live with us for that winter !!!

  50. In October of 1982, I rested at night on a sand dune at Galeota Point, Trinidad. Soaring along the dune only about 3' to 8' off the ground was this all white bird with about a 5' wingspan. When it saw me it stopped above and hovered not 3' away. It absolutely was an owl. I did not blink and finally reached up to touch it. I think my eyes must have been a delicacy that drew it near. It flew off. I've looked about to see what is indigenous to those parts or uses those Southern Caribbean Islands as a route and have had no answer. This bird type has always captivated me as I got to appreciate an encounter most only dream of.

  51. I am wondering if there are longitudinal data available on the appearance of snowy owls south of Hudson"s Bay? About 30 years ago, during a very cold winter, not dissimilar to this winter, I was driving from London, Ontario to Lansing MI, on quite deserted roads, and I must have seen 3-4 snowy owls on the trip, perched on fence posts.
    Ever since that trip I have paid attention to raptors when driving, and I am glad to see an increase in the number of now-common red-tailed hawks in Indiana. Thanks for this article.

  52. Birds are highly sensitive to changing weather, as they have to be when they migrate, following winds as well as high and low pressure systems. So it stands to reason the Snowy Owls were anticipating and then following the core of cold temperatures of the polar vortex, as it plunged southward over the Eastern US. Not hard to imagine...

  53. I saw a snowy in the then-woods of Staten Island, in the `940s. It was exciting!

  54. The sad comment on this amazing and alarming article is that this is just another warning of what we humans are doing to our planet, and the naysayers who either deny climate change or claim it is just a natural cyclic change will never read this article nor others like it. Hard to see what is happening when you are locked in your vaults counting the money that oil, natural gas and deforestation have heaped upon you!

  55. Sorry, we the ever swelling population, the we the people, are demanding the increasing amounts of oil, natural gas, etc., so that we may have ever bigger houses, more vehicles, more toys. It's not just the super rich hiding in their vaults counting their money, that are at fault. It's all of us.

  56. As a bird watcher, I would love to see a snowy owl. But as an environmentalist, I fear they are yet another canary in the coal mine, harbingers of global climate change that is only just beginning - and to which people remain, if not oblivious, at least insufficiently concerned about.

    If we actually changed our life styles even somewhat to consume less of everything in general - thereby slowing habitat destruction and pollution - some very powerful people would - OMG! - stand to not be quite as vastly rich as they long to be. So what they do, repeatedly, is cast a bit of doubt on all the scientific evidence and wail their jeremiads about the "threats" to our "freedoms" - ie, our freedom to destroy the planet with over consumption, and their freedom to make obscene amounts of money beyond what any normal person could ever use.

    In the long run (decades), this pattern is in NOBODY'S best interests. But short-term profits seem to trump long-term considerations virtually every time. I do not see a healthy future for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

  57. Could it be that this last year the ice in the Arctic actually got thicker, with colder temperatures reported than in the last years? Perhaps the birds got used to warmer temps and now find themselves heading south? Could it be that the north forest in Canada has been disappearing due to tar sands extraction across so many miles - driving the birds further south because that forest isn't as attractive as it used to be?

    Regardless, it seems that we know little about their patterns or why the fly north or south. I don't believe there are any data to make any conclusions at this point. Just enjoy the beautiful birds.

  58. Could they be harbingers of an event yet to come for higher latitudes? Like say, the eruption of the Yellowstone Volcano? Or just as deadly, the chilling of North America as in the last ice age? While the latter seems currently ludicrous, explain to us why a cold weather bird would fly towards the Equator, if for no other reason than to explore suitable habitats for an impending FREEZE back home. Should the future actually hold open seas and increased food supplies, as proposed by McGowan, the owl would stay put ... grinning at its good fortune.

  59. I am NOT a birdwatcher.

    Climate change? Bit complicated for me. Definitely the ice is melting in the Artic but ships get stuck in the Antarctic. To me it looks bit contradictory but there is, I am sure, a consistent explanation for that.

    Just watching our very superficial TV news. Here in California it is kind of confusing. After quite warm Christmas may have a cold wave. Normal variation or El Nino or is it currently an anti-El Nino?

  60. Pay attention to the drought.

  61. In the past, these irruptions of snowy owls were always attributed to lack of food in their native range. The starving birds left their normal range in a desperate search for food.
    Now an Audubon Society bird rehabilitator suggests there is actually too much food available in the North and that's why the birds are multiplying and leaving.
    I would like to know if there is any scientific basis for this highly optimistic view.

  62. A ship in the Arctic is not going to send owls south. But climate change will and is happening faster that anyone thought. California is in crisis from drought. The drying of the U. S. extends from California to the Mississippi.

    The recent continental cold can also be explained by climate change. Over the past few months. a warmer northern Pacific Ocean has pushed the jet stream north as it crosses the water. Nome, Alaska has had temperatures of 45 degrees. The jet stream has plunged south taking the Arctic air with it. Turning north east by warm air over Mexico and the Gulf, the Coriolis effect has turned it into what news weather casters have dubbed “the Polar Vortex”. None seem capable of explaining why it has happened.

    Climate change has also come to the Philippines. The Philippines got hit with 28 typhoons last summer. With the Pacific warming, ocean currents have started to change direction. The ocean level in the western Pacific has risen a foot.

    500 km east of the Philippines, currents in one area are rotating in a circle, the water in the centre of which is some 5 degrees warmer than the surrounding water. This warm spot has generated all the typhoons that last summer hit the Philippines, including Haiyan. The entire country is likely to be flattened over the next few years.

    If your country is destroyed by typhoons or, alternatively, there is no water, people will be desperate enough to migrate en masse. I offer consolations to future generations.

  63. The story is an interesting one.

    My research is focused on optimal management of biological populations including humans. It worries me that people concerned about global warming avoids its impact on the global human population when as we see may have a significant impact on the snowy owl population.

    Each TWO months the increase in global human population is about 24,000,000 and food is not increasing fast enough to match it. The Arab Spring was triggered by wheat crop failures in Russia. China last year had the hottest summer in 60 years and USA also had a recent very hot summer which impacted on agriculture.

    At this rate a critical and massive shortage of food will occur in Asia affecting 2,000,000,000 before 2050. It is the greatest threat to world peace and President Obama is wasting precious resources in confronting China with his Pivot Asia strategy. USA and China now Siamese twins in global economy should map out joint strategies to maintain peace when Asia descends into total chaos due to widespread famines. Warnings on what can happen are told in the recent movie "Back to 1942" which describes what happened when 3,000,000 died from a massive famine in Central China in 1942. Humans degenerated into animal behavior.

  64. The huge irruption of Snowy Owls this winter seems to be a once in a lifetime event.
    Why there are so many over so broad a range? The answer to that can only be speculation as there is no data.
    Even the Cornell ornithologist was speculating.
    The hypothesis that it is due to climate change melting arctic ice, or a population boom in response to lemming abundance may be correct, but neither is supported by anything in this article. We don’t know how much of the population has moved. If there are no birds remaining in the far north, then this event may be serious. Do we know that?

    It is normal to find a few Snowy Owls along the New England coast every winter. This years big numbers may or may not be a warning of thing to come. They may just be the result of a very high lemming population during the last breeding season.
    This isn’t the only species of bird that has irruptions. Notably, the redpolls, cross-bills and others that move are generally accepted to be in response to food shortages within their normal range.
    There are grounds for debate and premises for study… in the mean time, count yourself lucky if you see a magnificent Snowy Owl.
    John R Williams
    USDA Forest Service, Ret.

  65. The theory of evolution teaches us there is no such thing as a "traditional" habitat. What we are witnessing today is what nature has always witnessed, adapation to a changing environment. Everything we see around us is the product of these same forces. The landscap we view as traditional, or the norm, was not always here and certainly will not be everlasting. It is folly to cling to a particular landscape simply because it happens to coincide with our personal existence.

  66. Snowy owls may overwinter in southern latitudes but the tundra is their habitat. It's where they have successfully reproduced and it's where they can be found in the greatest numbers and most of the time. Individuals may mutate but it takes a population to evolve.

    Lemmings are their major staple. They have evolved feet to capture lemming-sized food. Plumage to match the habitat that their preferred prey occupies.

    Evolution occurs if they survive and reproduce, then the offspring continue to reproduce. Dead animals do not evolve. Most of these birds will not return to the tundra.

    When you see Snowy Owls in the Carolinas in the Summer and they're feeding their young, then you can say they've evolved. They won't be white either.

  67. A wonderful bird to see. Saw my first one at Plum Island, Mass, over 50 years ago, and have seen them also in Colorado and Alaska.
    The irruptions have happened for years, periodically. This year is the most spectacular. And more birders and better communications have documented more than might have been seen in the past.
    I won't say I am dumbfounded, but I do shake my head, as everything that happens which may be attributed to "climate change," evidence or not, is ballyhooed as such. Used to be called global warming, until that theory was disproven by many (but still clung to by many). Tell those freezing in the northeast that there is global warming; those snowed in in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida; and the snowy owls which are happy to make it SOUTH, not north, in the winter, that this is "global warming." (Or last year's new record low temperature set in Antarctica).

  68. The snowy owl is a magical bird, but I tend to believe all birds are pretty special. I hope this irruption gets people more focused on birds, as their numbers are declining, and in some cases plummetting. USF&W has listed 78 endangered, 15 threatened, and 273 species of concern. That is 36% of all US native birds. Many are migratory songbirds that nest in the Canadian arboreal forest, the same one that some want to destroy for a millisecond of tar sands energy. Many are migratory songbirds that are lured to their deaths by reflections in glass. Many are grassland birds, such as the bobwhite quail that have been beset by hundreds of millions of free-roaming and feral cats. If dogs are required to be licensed and kept on their owner's property, surely we could apply the same policies to cats. Yes, there is Purr-fect fence, just for cats. There are window treatments. We don't really NEED tar sands, apparently the low quality oil will be sent to China. And the songbirds will lose their arboreal breeding grounds. Those stories you may have seen last week about the monarch butterfly are tomorrow's stories about America's songbirds unless we treasure and protect them from imminent devastation.

  69. It's Hedwig!!!

  70. We are blessed to have four or five Snowy Owls visiting our area (Green Bay) this winter. Absolutely beautiful birds! To the outrage of many of us, a local falconer reportedly captured a Snowy Owl last week. If true, it is unconscionable. A once free bird now a "play thing".

  71. I live in New Mexico. This past November, while on a photo shoot North of the Bosque del Apache I espied a sole Tundra Swan. It was alone among thousands of the annual migratory groups of Sandhill Cranes that come here every fall. It was striking. I managed to get a decent enough picture of it, and sent it off to the experts at the BdA for conclusive identification. They were VERY excited to see this, as apparently their visitations are few and far between this far south. I was pretty excited as well! Maybe just a wrong turn somewhere up Canada way? Who knows. It was a great day in New Mexico!

  72. The most welcome snowbird in Florida

  73. There have been 2 Snowy Owls spotted on Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks of NC. They have been here since late December and are our favorite visitors of the new year.

  74. Re-framing a difficulty to see the positive side of a situation is a useful coping skill to keep panic at bay. At least we humans will be happy and calm as we become extinct. That is until the inevitability sinks in.

    Is our collective intelligence is so low that we will not survive our insistence that things be as we want them to be and not as they are?