February 1st, 2012
Bird lovers in the Michigan area have been treated to an unexpected occurrence this winter, with a much larger than usual number of snowy owls – normally found in the Arctic tundra – showing up across the lower parts of the state in search of food.
According to USA Today, scientists say the likely reason for the explosion is that the owls’ chief food source, small animals called lemmings, was abundant last summer, allowing the adults to raise more young. Now, in search of food, young owls are heading farther south.
I can tell you this is highly unusual,” Karen Cleveland, bird biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said.
The phenomenon is called an irruption – an invasion of birds in unusual places or in high numbers, usually occurring due to a lack of food in the birds’ home territory.
By early December there had been 60 sightings in lower Michigan counties alone, with 34 in the Upper Peninsula. In late December, a snowy owl perched on a roof of a grocery store in Grand Rapids caused a crowd.
“Most people go a lifetime without seeing one,” Jerry Jourdan, a Wyandotte, Mich. Birder told the online magazine. “It’s an absolute thrill, and they’re much larger than you expect.”
via USA Today
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