Snowy Owl Irruptions

February 02, 2018

Snowy_Owl_IMG_0067 (1)

Photographer: Bill Schultz MD 
Summary Authors: Bill Schultz MD; Jim Foster

The photo of this eye-catching snowy owl was taken near Berlin, Ohio, on December 9, 2017. Snowy owls breed in the Arctic region (tundra areas of Alaska and northern Canada) but will range further south during the winter months. Periodically, a large number of these snowy owls will migrate (individually) much further south in a somewhat unpredictable event called an irruption. The irruptions during the winter of 2013-14 were particularly noteworthy; snowy owl sightings were confirmed in Florida and even in Bermuda.

Evidently, it's not starvation or sickness that push the owls deep into the mid-latitudes but rather an abundance of prey during the summer season. If lemming populations are unusually high in summer across the North American Arctic, there's typically a corresponding increase in owl egg production. At the end of the summer season, when the nestlings are fully fledged, these young owls head south, on occasion arriving in locales where they've never been seen before. This winter there's been an exceptional number of snowy owl sightings in Ohio, as well as in other states that border Canada. Fortunately, they don't seem shy about being photographed.

Photo Details: Camera: Canon PowerShot G15; Exposure Time: 0.0020s (1/500); Aperture: ƒ/2.8; ISO equivalent: 80; Focal Length: 30.5mm; Software: Windows Photo Editor 10.0.