Snowy Owl Irruption

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We've been blessed to have a visitor from the arctic in our area recently.  We'll introduce you to the snowy owl that has called NEPA it's home for the past few weeks and tell you why it's here.


  • wdlfbio

    Absolutely a horribly ignorant series of actions and discussion.

    I completely agree that these are beautiful animals and it’s a blessing to get to see them so close. However, your actions show an ignorance that must be corrected. Although the presence of these birds is uncommon, over 25 birds have been killed at just one airport in Massachusetts since 1991. So, when they show up, they have a high likelihood of being killed at airports. Wouldn’t that make the idea of encouraging ones presence at an airport (especially on the runway) seem quite ignorant? You guys need to do a little homework.

    In addition to the sad outcome for the bird, substantial damages to aircraft and passengers trying to connect to future flights often result. I wonder how blessed you will feel when you pick this bird’s carcass off the runway or it gets killed on some other runway because YOU have conditioned it to seek out airports (and specifically runways) for easy foraging. Absolutely ignorant and selfish. In addition, this airport manager is in clear breach of FAA grant assurances by supporting the presence of hazardous wildlife on the airfield. If your “citizen scientists” and professionals truly cared about the well being of this bird and other snowy owls that visit airports, they should seek to protect them by conditioning them to stay away from airfields.

    It’s unfortunate that more people, especially “professionals” like yourselves, do not understand the safety concerns birds at airports pose (for the birds too). It’s no wonder that we have over ten thousand birdstrikes reported in the U.S. every year.

    • tangara

      agreed. See the following post to PABirds today from a bird banded at Philadelphia Airport:

      … regarding one of our tagged snowy owls. “Philly,” the bird that we caught and tagged at Philadelphia International Airport and relocated to Lancaster County Jan. 9 — and which returned to the airport two days later — was hit and killed by a UPS cargo jet at daybreak this morning. The plane was not damaged, fortunately.

      I got the word from USDA Wildlife Services technician Jenny Martin, who has been keeping a very close eye on Philly while trying to retrap and move him again. In fact, a number of us — including bander Tim Kita and PGC staffers Steve Fererri and Dan Mummert — have tried several times to recapture him, and we had another full-court press planned for Friday and Saturday. But Philly had thwarted or ignored every subsequent attempt to catch him.

      We were concerned that Philly was at especially high risk, not just because he hung out at the end of the runway, but because his favorite evening hunting perch was along the northbound lanes of I-95. Last week during the snowstorm his transmitter sent a “Last Known Location” report that had him square in the middle of the four northbound lanes at dusk, and we worried then that he’d been hit. It was a false alarm (he must have landed on the nearly deserted highway, then flown off again) but it was a sign that he was on borrowed time.

      We knew going into this winter’s tracking research that we were likely to lose some of our tagged owls; most of them are juveniles, and that inexperience combined with the natural naiveté of snowy owls can be a dangerous combination. But this is still a tough loss for all of us.

      On a happier note, if you haven’t been to the SNOWstorm website lately (, check out the interactive map for the owl named Erie, , who has been moving all over Lake Erie on drifting ice over the past week.

  • martha amistadi

    Peace people. I am sure this owl is healthy and strong, as well as beautiful. Thank you PA outdoor life.

  • Michael Sauers

    Inappropriate to feed Snowy Owl mice from a store. There are plenty of wild rodents for this owl. Why do you guys insist on manipulating nature?

  • Wendy

    You can’t force an animal to eat so apparently it was hungry and secondly ProjectSNOWStorm encourages photographs of the owl flying for accurate identification. Instead of stressing the owl to make it fly and burn precious calories, a well deserved hand-out was awarded in order to capture the photographs- based upon my observations of watching the show on this POL segment.

  • Melissa

    I wish that they would have gone on to talk about how it is illegal to harm them. Now you’ve show people how to draw them in with store bought mice. Some idiot with a gun will want one on his wall, no doubt.

  • Lynn LaBarre

    Thanks for sharing the snowy owl story and photos-we had a large white gyrfalcon in our backyard today-this bird is the largest falcon-sorry couldn’t get photos-it was up too high in the tree line

  • Chris

    I find it odd that the guys talk about the owl being very hungry and struggling to survive, then show the page from ProjectSNOWStorm with “Irruption Myths” which states the following:

    “Most people assume that hunger has driven these owls south, and that they are doomed to slowly starve to death in this unfamiliar southern landscape. Both assumptions are wrong.

    It appears it’s not hunger that produces these mega-flights, but an absurd abundance of food during the summer breeding season. High populations of lemmings, voles, ptarmigan and other prey lead to large clutches of owl eggs.”

    2 days of research, eh????

  • Andy

    Simply disgusting that you are feeding these birds. They aren’t here because they are hungry, you only did this to get some good pictures and get a good story.

  • tracy houtz

    omg I love this this is so totally awesome please send me more pics of any kind of wild life pics I love aniimals of all kinds heard people talking talking a lot about hearing a lot of coyoties spelled wrong here in renovo it would be awesome to see them and take pics of the pack of them

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