Snowy Owls in the Kalamazoo Area

Snowy Owls live in the treeless tundra of the Arctic. This winter they are turning up in seemingly unprecedented numbers in Michigan, the Great Lakes region and the East. This movement is driven because their food supply in the Arctic is very low and when they can’t find enough food they are forced to move south in search of it. Many of these birds were probably born this year and are not yet proficient hunters.  In their journey south they do not feed, partly because there is little suitable habitat in the vast boreal forests of Canada. So, when they finally get past the forest, they are usually looking for large open areas that resemble their tundra home, but will use many other areas that have food.  Probably the most common food for them is small rodents, or even pigeons in town. They are hungry and many are desperate.

If anyone finds a Snowy Owl, certainly enjoy the sight from a distance, but please do not approach it. It is very likely already fighting for its life trying to find food and disturbance takes it away from that mission. We at the Audubon Society of Kalamazoo are attempting to document this event and would therefore appreciate knowing of any Snowy Owls that are found in the Kalamazoo area.

If a bird is seen that is obviously sick or injured please immediately call Sharron Butler in Vicksburg (269) 649-2028 (a Department of Natural Resources licensed bird rehabilitator), or veterinarian Dr. Charles Mehne (269) 993-3284 of Kalamazoo for instructions. If you should find a dead Snowy Owl please seal it in a plastic bag, put it in the freezer and contact Russ Schipper (269) 375-7210 or (269) 370-1319. All have the necessary federal and state permits to handle the birds.  The dead birds may be able to be mounted and used as valuable educational tools.

Thank you for you interest and cooperation.

 

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Photo by Mike and Kathy Koets