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100 Rare Snowy Owls Seen In Wisconsin

December 2, 2011

What a great story for lovers of grand things in flight.

As many as 100 of the birds have been reported already across Wisconsin, according to Bill Mueller, an ornithologist who works with the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory in Milwaukee. Normally, no more than a dozen or so are spotted this far south over the course of the winter.

“From the reports we have coming in, there are more than 100 birds in the state,” said Mueller. “And it’s early. It could get to be quite a few more. It’s very likely that if we have a normal winter, we could have these birds around until early March.”

Mueller said a shortage of lemmings is a likely reason for the arrival of the owls though their southern movements also seem to occur in somewhat regular cycles, every four years or so.

The last time the owls appeared this far south in such high numbers was in 2006. That year, at least three of the amber-eyed owls created quite a stir, two near the Audubon Goose Pond Sanctuary near Arlington and another in the area of Middleton’s Pheasant Branch Conservancy.

An audience with one of the owls is an opportunity to see and better appreciate one of nature’s most spectacular creatures. The snowies are huge, the heaviest owls in North America. They can grow up to 23 inches tall and sport wingspans of up to 52 inches.

The snowy owl is as unique for its character and its wild ways as it is for its showy dress of white, streaked by bars of black. It has been observed fiercely defending its nest, even from attacks by wolves. A snowy can eat three lemmings per day, up to 1,600 per year. But it is big enough also to dine on small ducks, according to Mueller.

One Comment
  1. December 2, 2011 11:27 PM

    Wonderful story. Thank you!

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