Last winter, the Northeast and Upper Midwest U.S. were treated to sightings of a bird species rarely seen so far south—the snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus). Snowy owls breeding in northern Quebec experienced a record nesting season the previous summer, believed to be linked to a boom of their prey, arctic lemmings.
So when it came time for the young owls to disperse in early 2014, many of them (mostly males) had to disperse further south than normal to find food. There was even a snowy owl seen as far south as Washington, D.C.
As it turns out, 2015 looks to be another year for a “SNOWstorm” (so called for the 4-letter abbreviation for snowy owls, SNOW). The birds had another record nesting season in 2014, this time for owls nesting in Nunavut, Canada.
If you weren’t one of the lucky folks in the Northeast and Upper Midwest U.S. last year who got to see a snowy owl, you might have another chance this year!
You can stay on top of this year’s snowy owl sightings through the eBird.org citizen science project — just sign up for eBird’s snowy owl alert service, or keep an eye on this custom up-to-date eBird map of recent snowy owl sightings to see if a snowy owl has been spotted near you this winter. And if you are one of the lucky ones to spot a snowy owl, be sure to report it on eBird too!