Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Snowy Owls Begin to Arrive

One of the most impressive winter birds to migrate south from the Arctic, Snowy Owls capture our attention annually (photo by Paul Konrad).
The Snowy Owl’s 2022 movements north to Prince of Wales Island in the Canadian Arctic and back to southwest Manitoba last week (map courtesy of Project Snowstorm and Google Earth).

As if to celebrate the 10th season of Project Snowstorm, last week the first of the Snowy Owls fitted with transmitters migrated south from the Arctic, following what has proven to be a pretty predictable route to southwest Manitoba. Arriving November 13th in open farmland west of Dauphin Lake, this adult female was initially fitted with a transmitter by Project Snowstorm associates near Madison, Wisconsin in January 2020. The adult female’s location data shows she spent the summer in the Canadian Arctic north of the mainland on Prince of Wales Island, where she spent most of the summer in a roughly 740-acre area, although it’s unclear whether or not she nested there.

The adult female’s location data doesn’t show the enormous number of GPS fixes in one central spot that would clearly indicate she had been incubating a clutch of eggs on a nest. It’s possible she started to lay eggs and lost the clutch, or didn’t nest and spent the summer in a small area because it provided ample prey.

It's interesting to note that last year this tagged female arrived in southwest Manitoba on November 25, 2021, after which she wintered in western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota (our Editor, Paul Konrad, observed this bird just west of West Fargo, North Dakota last winter). During the previous winter of 2020-21 she arrived in Manitoba November 12, 2020, then moved to southeast Saskatchewan; thereafter she passed through North Dakota and Minnesota before eventually wintering in northern Iowa.

If you take a look at this Snowy Owl’s migration routes, you will see she is somewhat predictable in her annual flights north and south, which is not always the case. The information provided by tagged Snowy Owls shows these big predators are definitely individuals, and their winter movements and destinations are dictated by where they find adequate food.

This is the 10th season for Project Snowstorm, and the amount of interesting information provided by this impressive study is ever-growing. You can follow the adult female Snowy Owl’s movements, present and past at Columbia - Project SNOWstorm (click on the “Find Most Recent” button to get started).

Also take a look at other Snowy Owl’s movements among the tagged birds that range from New York to Montana and points north through Canada. New reports on other Snowys are expected to follow, and you can check on any of the owls to monitor their movements periodically at The First News From the North - Project SNOWstorm