In On the Move, our regular column about migration, we present pairs of distribution maps from eBird that you can use to compare where interesting birds are at different times of year. We featured Snowy Owl, pictured above, in our February 2016 issue.
In July (left map), Snowy Owls are found above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Canada, where humans rarely encounter them. (Purple squares in places like Indiana and Ontario represent rare records of summering individuals, which tend to be heat-stressed and in poor condition.) During most winters, however, at least a few Snowies show up in southern Canada and the northern lower 48 states. The regions hosted thousands of owls in 2013-14, and a smaller but still significant flight occurred again in 2014-15. Such irruptions are unpredictable, but they’re believed to occur after high chick production the previous summer. The species’ February distribution over the last 10 years is shown on the map at right. Look for Snowies perched on sandy dunes, beach driftwood, farm equipment, and telephone poles. They can be especially hard to spot against a snowy landscape.
eBird is the real-time online checklist operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon. “On the Move” is written by eBird’s Garrett MacDonald, Chris Wood, Marshall Iliff, and Brian Sullivan. Submit your bird sightings at ebird.org.
A version of this article appeared in “Birding Briefs” in the February 2016 issue of BirdWatching. Subscribe.
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