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Modern Technology Reveals Snowy Owl Winter Behavior

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With the arrival of this winter’s first Snowy Owls in New England comes a renewed interest in the winter ecology of these birds of prey. An organization called Project Snowstorm (www.projectsnowstorm.org ) gathers detailed information every 30 seconds on the movement of Snowy Owls that they have outfitted with a backpack harness containing a solar transmitter. These transmitters use the cellular phone network, not a satellite, and when they are out of range of a cell tower, they store information which is transmitted when the bird is back within cell coverage territory – even if it’s years later.

The information that has been gleaned from this modern technology is stunning, and has allowed us to know far more about the behavior of Snowy Owls in winter. Some Snowy Owls stay within a quarter mile of where they are banded; others cover hundreds of miles within a few weeks. Some Snowy Owls spend much of the winter out on the frozen Great Lakes, where they prey on waterfowl they find in the cracks in the ice that open and close repeatedly.   Not only has it been confirmed that Snowy Owls feed heavily on birds in the winter (especially ducks, geese, grebes and gulls), but their use of channel markers and buoys as hunting perches while they seek prey over the open ocean at night has been documented.

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4 responses

  1. Bill On The Hill...

    Hi Mary… A fascinating story for sure as I never would have known the raptor’s whereabouts without a tracking device.
    I find the snowy owl to be a mystical creature and as yet, I have not had the opportunity to photograph one.
    Great post…
    Bill Farr :>)

    November 29, 2016 at 8:04 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    Such gorgeous birds! They enjoy hunting on/near Duxbury Beach, South Shore, MA. I’ve seen them! Google: Greg Lessard, Snowy Owls, for wonderful Photos.

    November 29, 2016 at 8:11 am

  3. mariagianferrari

    I live in VA, and apparently there was one in DC a couple of years ago. It’s such a great program.

    November 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

  4. Kathie Fiveash

    so cool!

    November 29, 2016 at 11:44 am

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