Some more pics, from the Snowy Owl Irruption of 2013-14. We may never see this many Snowy Owls again in Brooklyn (and throughout the NE and into the Great Lakes Midwest). While a bonanza for us, this massive irruption isn’t necessarily good for the birds. These are mostly juvenile birds, and juveniles of any species are always less able to survive. No doubt some will not make the long trip back to breeding grounds.
Why are they here? This Newfoundlander, who has counted 100s of Snowys this year, argues that it was a particularly fecund year for the birds; when lemmings, their main food item during breeding season, are numerous, Snowys can produced up to nine eggs in the short breeding season. It’s boom and bust. Particularly boomy boom years cause the birds to spread out, there are too many for the local carrying capacity, and mature birds will defend their territory against usurpers. The vast majority of birds down here are youngsters. Here’s more evidence of this, along with some wonderful footage of a feisty bird aching for freedom, from the guy in charge of capturing the owls at Logan airport and then releasing them elsewhere.
But consider how those breeding grounds are being radically transformed, the tundra sagging into melt. That fringe climate change measurer, the U.S. Navy, is predicting an ice-free Arctic summer by 2016.