Hello Vermont Birders:
I would echo Jane's thought and caution birders to not be too gloom and
doom when Snowy Owls arrive.
The paper Jane is referring to from Norm Smith can be viewed here:
In it, Mr. Smith states:
"In years when many owls were observed and captured, most of them were
immature birds and appeared to be in good physical health and body weight.
This observation could indicate that there may have been an abundant food
supply on the breeding grounds, which in turn resulted in a large number of
young hatched and therefore an abundance of Snowy Owls here. The years when
few owls were observed, a high percentage tended to be underweight adults,
which perhaps means that food had been scarce on the breeding grounds and
few young were produced, the result being fewer owls wintering here."
That's one researchers opinion anyway.
I suspect our perception of Snowy Owl morality might be skewed a bit
because they are so spectacular and we monitor them so closely when they
arrive that we end up knowing their fate at a higher percentage than most
birds. Because they are big, mostly white, and owls, people are more likely
to find and intervene on behalf of a struggling Snowy Owl than say a
sparrow. About 70% of all raptors don't survive their first year.
One Snowy Owl in Delaware was thought to be sick or injured since it was on
the ground in a corn field drooping its wings. Birders gathered to see it
debated whether to intervene or not. Cooler heads prevailed and the bird
was left in peace. As dusk approached, the bird became more alert and
started to stir. When it took off at dusk, it was carrying a partially
eaten rabbit in its talons. Turns out the bird was just mantling the whole
On Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 3:54 PM, Jane Stein <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> FYI, I haven't seen anything from him this winter, but in past Snowy
> irruptions, Norm Smith, who bands and relocates Snowies at Logan Airport in
> Boston has reported that the vast majority were in good to excellent
> condition, not at all emaciated. Between the airport and the harbor, Logan
> is a particularly prey-rich environment for a large raptor, but with no
> snow cover here in VT to speak of and an abundance of small rodents in
> meadows and farm fields, etc., it isn't hard for a competent large raptor
> to do quite well, especially near the lake.
> I don't know what the rate of survival past the first year is for young
> Snowies, but it's not very high in most raptors because learning to hunt
> effectively is hard. I suspect that with a big influx of immature Snowies,
> we're just seeing the ones that fail in a way we ordinarily wouldn't.
> That is a wonderful Nature documentary, but there's no need to go to
> Netflix for it. All Nature programs for this season and most from previous
> ones can be accessed in full for free on the Nature program's Web site,
> which I believe is PBS.org/nature. (Same goes for other PBS doc series,
> Frontline, American Experience, Nova, etc.)
> On 12/6/2013 3:42 PM, Justin LeClaire wrote:
>> Hey everyone,
>> While on my way home from a birding trip to NY, I noticed what turned out
>> to be a Snowy Owl laying face first about 50 feet out on the ice of Lake
>> Champlain in Rouses Point. I didn't notice anything specific that would
>> point to this bird being struck by a car, but it's certainly possible as
>> the roadway was only another 30 feet from the ice. Instead, I'm thinking
>> may be another of the many emaciated Snowys being reported this winter
>> throughout the east.
>> I also just watched today a good documentary termed "NATURE: Magic of the
>> Snowy Owl" which can be found on Netflix that follows a pair of Snowys up
>> in the arctic throughout the breeding season. I wanted to report this
>> documentary along with the dead Snowy sighting to remind us VT birders
>> while Snowy Owls are very majestic birds, they're on the brink of death
>> when they are forced to disperse to find food. The link below is to a shot
>> of the deceased Snowy in Rouses Point. It's not gory at all, but it is a
>> pretty sad sight.