We’ve had a cold winter in southern New Jersey. Those who live here have learned to acclimate or move elsewhere. Have you ever thought about the animals or birds that live in the cold, snowy climate and thrive there? Do they ever move elsewhere’?
The snowy owl , also known as the Arctic owl or great white owl spends most of its time living and nesting in the Arctic tundra of Alaska, Canada and Eurasia. Comparable in size to NJ’s great horned owl, it has much more body fat that keeps it warm and allows it to live in the coldest regions on earth.
In a very good year of hunting, a snowy owl will eat three to five lemmings, rabbits, mice or birds a day. Most owls hunt at night making them nocturnal but the snowy owl is diurnal which means it hunts during the day. When there is a good supply of food , the owl will lay more eggs and produce more young. So the size of the clutch of eggs is totally dependent on the abundance of food.
“Irruptions” are when larger than usual numbers of snowy owls venture beyond their normal Arctic habitats. Scientists suspect that the larger population of juvenile snowy owls traveling further south is also a result of an increased number of young born and fledged and then the ensuing competition for food.
During the winter of 2013/14, the snowy owl migrated south and many stopped in NJ much to the delight of bird watchers. “It’s a natural spectacle, like a meteor shower, something you should see,” said Pete Dunne, New Jersey Audubon’s director of communications.
This December and January, sightings of the snowy owl were once again being observed at the the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge http://www.fws.gov/refuge/edwin_b_forsythe/ and at Island Beach State Park http://www.islandbeachnj.org/ Both locations are along the New Jersey coast.
Perhaps you can make a trek to see the Arctic visitor in south Jersey. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/10/snowy-owl-influx-a-hoot-for-bird-watchers/3978577/
Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.