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Hey, that’s this year!

And what a spectacular year for snowy owls it has been…with reports across the northeastern US, an exciting chatter has built up amongst birders.  This beautiful and charismatic bird is normally a rare sight!

photo by Dave K

Dripping with charisma!  photo by Dave K

An irruption is a rapid and unusual increase in the abundance and distribution of a species.  The citizen science project, eBird, has made bird irruptions visible through a massive amount of data collected by bird lovers nationwide.

snowy owl distributions for Nov-Dec 2010 (left) and Nov-Dec 2013 (right), from eBird.org

snowy owl distributions for Nov-Dec 2010 (left) and Nov-Dec 2013 (right), from eBird.org

Many believe that this current snowy owl irruption is likely due to a boom in prey populations last year, which supported larger clutches of baby owls than usual.

There is also an interesting discussion going on about shooting snowy owls at airports.  For example, JFK airport in New York began shooting owls when they became a runway hazard (the owls like airports because they have large open spaces where rodents are plainly visible).

A movie star snowy owl, source

A movie star snowy owl, source

There is also an entire episode on snowy owls that you can watch online at PBS.  And here’s some great footage of a snowy owl just kind of sitting…and chillaxin’.  And blinking and stuff.

So graceful! photo by Dennis Paulsen

So graceful! photo by Dennis Paulson

And if you haven’t read it, you should check out this hilarious post on an interaction between a snowy owl and a local raptor.

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