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Thread subject: Snow owls, continued
Name Date Message
Nancy L 12/10/13 02:21 pm Couldn't find Shelley's post.

Yes, the snow owls are so many that they are striking jets from the New York airports.
Shelley 12/10/13 07:53 pm Something weird is going on. Since yesterday, every time I try to post, I am seeing a message at the bottom that a one time registration is required to post a message. I am already registered yet the prompt continues. Is this happening to anyone else?
I just checked and my post from yesterday, even after I clicked to register, appears to be gone. Nancy, what are you seeing? Just my name with no message? I don't even see my name from yesterday's thread
Nancy L 12/11/13 02:06 pm Yes, your name appeared, as if there was a message, but it was not in red & there was no message. So I decided to start another thread for us.
martyc35 12/11/13 03:35 pm Thanks for this thread. I passed along the link that Mel provided to the article about the lemmings and owls, and I received this reply from a chat group member who knows quite a bit about this: Hi Marty- Thanks for the link (6+ / 0-)
Two things I'd like to mention: 1) For as far back as we've been keeping records, Snowy Owls irrupt every 5-10 years. While this is a pretty big irruption, there have been much bigger ones- here in the northeast the winter of 1890-91 and 1926-27 were huge. One taxidermist on eastern Long Island mounted more than 70 birds shot between Nov 24 and Dec 12 1926. When lemmings have a boom year, a pair of Snowies may raise as many as 14 young! Keep in mind that for a population to remain stable, over its entire lifetime, a breeding pair of any species must raise only two young to breeding age. That's a lot of built-in mortality.

and 2) The conventional wisdom has been that when Snowy Owls "irrupt", it's because the lemming population has crashed and they are being "starved out" of their normal range, and that many of them starve in the wintering area. There are some studies that indicate that this (the starvation aspect) may not be true. The authoritative "Birds of North America" cites this study

whose abstract states

âMany Snowy Owls that move southward from arctic regions are mistakenly assumed to die from starvation. Although this may prove to be the case during irruptive migrations of young in western and eastern sections of North America, there is no evidence that this is so in the N. Great Plains. In Alberta, 45% of the specimens examined had moderate to heavy fat deposits, and traumatic injuries were the major cause of mortality (Kerlinger and Lein 1988a). Causes of death or injury were collisions with unknown objects (46.5%), automobiles (14.1%), utility lines (4.2%) and airplanes (1.4%); also gunshot wounds (12.7%), electrocution (5.6%), fishing tackle (1.4%). Only 14.1% was believed due to starvation. Even as far south as Kansas, a Snowy Owl fed on rodents at a lumberyard for nearly a month before being accidentally electrocuted (Parmelee 1972). Gross (1947) inferred that individuals seen far from land at sea never live to return, but this is a moot question, difficult to resolve.â
Here's another: Kerlinger, P., M. R. Lein, and B. J. Sevick. 1985. Distribution and population fluctuations of wintering Snowy Owls (Nyctea scandiaca) in North America. Can. J. Zool. 63:1829-1834.
This is not to say that climate change isn't bringing new stresses and causes new problems with local populations, just that irruptions aren't new and the one we're seeing now isn't an extreme case. And it's not clear that the overall population is damaged when they occur.

by nookular on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 05:26:52 AM PST

Just thought you all would like this update. I'm still upset about the owls being shot at airports, but apparently this isn't the first time.
Nancy L 12/12/13 11:26 am Thanks for that info, Marty.
Melanie 12/12/13 12:05 pm They are no longer shooting - they've gone to a trapping mode So has Boston who has taken it one step further and are doing some satellite tracking
Melanie 12/12/13 12:48 pm Shooting birds in general is the dirty little secret of any airport. Birds and jet engines just don't mix. Just ask Capt Sully

Snowy irruptions (at least for the mid-Atlantic states) are happening with more and more frequency. We now have our own SO hanging out a 5 miles away from me by water - but it's a 30 mile drive and in a gated community. Normally we get an irruption down here every 5 years or so, but lately our area is now down to 3 years. This year is a banner year for us - while we normally see a few and generally along coast-lines like DelMarVa, this year they are here much earlier, in greater numbers and a much widespread area. Which probably begs the question, does an irruption every become an eruption? (sorry, I had to do it).
Celeste 12/16/13 03:46 am Yes Shelley I haven't been able to post after Zorro posted and after your post...Same message.

And yes Melanie, I am afraid you are very correct re the airport. It was stated after the incident of a SO found in an engine at Kennedy, that they were acting to get "rid" of any SO. Unfortunately the SO sees an airport as a welcoming habitat..
Melanie 12/16/13 12:23 pm I looked at the source code for the last thread. Where things went wonky is in the HTML link. What happened is that someone forgot to close the link with quotes before the > and that's why Zorro's post is the last one and it's showing some fragments. I'll bet that if he went back in and added a " after the .html things would smooth out.
FOB Webmaster 12/17/13 08:45 pm "Unfortunately the SO sees an airport as a welcoming habitat."

Well, that's the problem. The media acted like the Hudson incident was the first bird strike in history, and ever since then each one is a major news story. In reality, they'd been happening all along, but the Hudson story suddenly made them newsworthy and birds have been paying for it.

But if you look at an airport, many of them look like they were created to attract birds. Big open fields, small ponds and wetlands, and even nest-worthy forests. The environment at Orlando International Airport looks like a wildlife refuge. Heck, I've even seen a bald eagle on the tarmac, while I was sitting on the plane. And Orlando Airport has torn down their share of eagle nests in the surrounding forests as a result.

If we're going to make the airport environments so attractive to birds, we have to accept the occasional bird strike. It's a hazard of flying -- like lightning strikes, mechanical breakdowns, and human error.

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