The Snowy Owl is one species of bird most people don’t think they will ever have the chance of seeing unless they trek to the far reaches of the Arctic. While it is true they live in the northern parts of Canada, Alaska, and Eurasia, occasionally during winters there is an “irruption” of snowy owls. And irruption is when a species if found for some portion of the year outside of its natural habitat range.
Male snowy owl. Image from rtpi.org.
During the winter of 2013-2014, an irruption of snowy owls occurred and is considered to be the larges in Ohio in recorded history. What causes this irruption? The snowy owl’s main food source, the lemming (a small rodent found in the Arctic), had low population numbers all of 2013. With lemmings being scarce, snowy owls and other arctic birds fly farther south than they normally would in search of food.
A lemming. Image from wikipedia.
Already this winter, a few snowy owls have been spotted in the Cleveland area and along Lake Erie. If you keep your eye out for one, you may spot a once in a lifetime bird!
Female snowy owl in flight. Image from gifts.worldwildlife.org.