Field Notes

Arctic Visitors / Snowy Owls

January 1, 2018

Although it may not seem like it, spring is in the air — at least for visiting migratory bird species from the Arctic tundra — and it won’t be long before they leave us and head back up to their tundra nesting grounds.

Relatively small numbers of Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings and a handful of other Arctic bird species visit our region each winter. They forage or hunt over open fields that are reminiscent of large open expanses in the tundra.

This winter, however, the number of Snowy Owls in Michigan is exceptionally high, a phenomenon known as an “Interruption year.” Many researchers suspect increased competition for food in their breeding grounds (possibly due to population decreases of their favorite food: lemmings) sends more snowy owls than usual to their southern winter range.

These magnificently large, snow-colored birds rely upon open fields like those protected at the Arcadia Dunes: the C.S. Mott Nature Preserve and other protected and private lands in our area for their winter food needs. Keep an eye out for these beautiful Arctic visitors on fences, fence posts, and other perches. If you see one, you are in for a treat!

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