Why So Many Snowy Owls This Year?

Snowy Owl in Stone Harbor, NJ. © Pat Sutton

Snowy Owl in Stone Harbor, NJ. © Pat Sutton

Reports of Snowy Owl sightings are being recorded all over the US, making this winter one of the biggest Snowy Owl irruption years in recent memory.

An irruption is a dramatic increase in bird populations in places where they aren’t usually recorded. Bird irruptions are often related to lack of food in their normal range.

Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) are birds of the arctic tundra, and they feed mainly on lemmings. When the supply of lemmings isn’t sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of these owls, they move south in search of food.

The Snowy Owls are so abundant this year that even non-birders are taking notice of these large beautiful birds.

As much as you’d like to get a great close-up view of a Snowy Owl, it’s very important to keep a few things in mind.

First, these owls are showing up in unusual places because of a lack of food in their tundra home. Many are starving and desperate to eat. When you get too close, you are stressing them and keeping them from feeding. Please don’t get too close to them!

Read more about the Snowy Owl Irruption of 2013 at Beautiful Wildlife Garden

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© 2013, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of EcosystemGardening.com If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

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About Carole Sevilla Brown

Carole Sevilla Brown is a Conservation Biologist who firmly believes that wildlife conservation begins in your own back yard. Carole is an author, educator, speaker, and passionate birder, butterfly watcher,  and naturalist who travels around the country teaching people to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming habitat for wildlife so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, pollinators and other wildlife. She gardens for wildlife in Philadelphia, zone 6b, and created the philosophy of Ecosystem Gardening. Watch for her book Ecosystem Gardening, due out soon. Carole is managing editor of  Beautiful Wildlife Garden, and also  Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. Follow Carole on Facebook and also @CB4wildlife and on Google+


  1. Snowy Owls also migrate outside their range when their own population increases due to a high amount of food that allowed for more successful breeding, clutches, and survival rates. Once winter comes territories don’t allow room for all the new first year and younger owls. They are likely the birds that leave and migrate further south as they can’t defend territories. Many will not make it back unfortunately.

    But it is dry exciting to see them! We have 5 at Montrose Beach in Chicago – I’m going out tomorrow to morning to find some!

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