Snowy Owls and the NDBS
If you have never seen a snowy owl, this might be the winter you have been waiting for. There is an irruption of sorts going on in the northern tier states. Snowy owl sightings have been making the news from Bangor, Maine to Jamestown North Dakota.
Snowy owls may be observed most winters here in North Dakota. However, this interesting species is known for their occasional invasions or irruptions in areas south of their normal wintering range when their principle prey, lemmings, are down in population. Apparently we are experiencing one of these irruptions this year, but not because the lemming population is down.
The Jamestown Sun ran an article on this irruption. They quoted Duluth, Minnesota birder Laura Erickson explaining that this irruption is due to an unusually successful nesting season up north. Apparently all those young owls, mostly males, cannot find a suitable territory closer to home and are thus wondering southward.
Several reports of sightings have been posted on the North Dakota Birding Society’s Discussion Group. There are reports of snowy owls from the Bismarck/Mandan, Jamestown, and Fargo areas, as well as near Selz in Pierce County, Kee Lake in Barnes County, Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and Lonetree Wildlife Management Area. One was also reported from near Hettinger, but the bird was actually sighted in South Dakota. No doubt there are many other sightings not posted on the Discussion Board.
North Dakota Birding Society’s Discussion Board is a good source of information on birds in the state. According to their website, the North Dakota Birding Society’s objectives are to promote the study of birds of North Dakota, stimulate public interest in birds, and foster the preservation of birdlife and its natural habitat. Annual membership is only $8. In addition to maintaining the online Discussion Group, the society also posts information on Christmas Bird Counts, upcoming events for birders and other information. They also have links to websites of interest such as North Dakota Bird Checklists. You can check it out here.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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