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Snowy Owls Spotted in New England Far From Normal Arctic Home

Image: Snowy Owls Spotted in New England Far From Normal Arctic Home

Monday, 14 Apr 2014 07:24 AM

By Nick Sanchez

Snowy owls normally found in the arctic have been spotted much further south across New England this spring, causing speculation about what's attracting them.

Adam Tipper, a landscaper in Burlington, told WCAX Vermont, said, "We were working . . . and we happened to hear the crows and we saw over there on the front lawn a big owl. It was pretty cool. It was a big huge white snowy owl and we saw the crows all going crazy."

Many regions in the U.S. are likely to experience an "irruption" — an ecological influx — of snowy owls during the warmer months due to food conditions in the arctic.

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"The reason we are seeing so many snowy owls this year has everything to do with their food," said Larry Clarfeld of the North Branch Nature Center. "[I]n the Arctic breeding ground, snowy owls like to eat lemmings and this past summer of 2013, there were so many lemmings in the Arctic that many young snowy owls were born but once winter came there wasn't enough food for them to stay in the Arctic so we had them moving south in record numbers."

The record number of snowy owls has delighted many nature lovers, while at the same time irritated native birds who see the new predators as competition.

"We had about 2,000 cars come through so far in December, and that's two times the number we usually have for this same period," Donald Freiday with the US Fish and Wildlife Service told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

"It’s actually pretty special to have snow owls in New Jersey," he continued. "We normally in a given winter will have between none and three. This year, the whole state there are as many as 30."

Bird lovers can keep up with the owls, some of which have been tagged with tracking devices, by visiting ProjectSnowStorm.org.

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