23 Jan 2012:
A Snowy Owl Boom
Is Hitting the Northern U.S. This Winter
Wildlife experts say an unprecedented number of snowy owls have ventured south
into the northern U.S. this winter, a spike that may be driven by a dearth of food in the Arctic. From Seattle to Boston,
A snowy owl
bird-watchers have spotted the owls — marked by bright white plumage — in rarely seen numbers, Denver Holt, director of the U.S.-based Owl Research Institute, told the New York Times
. In late November, Holt said, one owl was even spotted at an airport in Hawaii, the first reported sighting in that state. While the birds typically fly south in large numbers during the late fall — and stick around until March or April — researchers say this year’s movement has been massive. According to Holt, the species had a good breeding year and access to an ample food supply last year, including lemmings, which comprise 90 percent of its Arctic diet. Other ornithologists, however, speculate that lemming populations crashed recently after a boom last year, although scientists have not confirmed such a decline, the Times
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