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More Homesick Snowy Owls in Forecast for JFK, Laguardia

Released: 12/10/2013 2:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
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We’re experiencing what could be the largest-ever influx of Arctic Snowy Owls into the Northeast and Great Lakes states. Kevin McGowan, a biologist at the Cornell University Lab or Ornithology, explains that snowy owls are attracted to airports such as JFK, Newark and LaGuardia because the huge, open expanses remind them of home.

McGowan says:

“The sudden influx of these birds, called an ‘irruption,’ may be the first wave. More Snowy Owls are poised to head south looking for food and will be attracted to wide-open expanses, such as airports, because they resemble their native tundra.

“Now that we know this is happening, airports can prepare for it by connecting with local wildlife removal experts, as the Port Authority has done. In most cases, we’ll be talking about a few birds per airport.”

“The killing of some owls at New York City airports has resulted in an outcry against the practice, which was deemed necessary to protect passengers after instances when owls where sucked into plane engines. We applaud the move by the Port Authority to pursue non-lethal methods of removing Snowy Owls from JFK and LaGuardia airports. This is essential to reduce risk to people, and it also preserves the lives of these magnificent raptors.

“More than likely these Snowy Owls are moving south from the Arctic because of a shortage of their favorite food up north – lemmings – or because of a bumper crop of young. We can expect them to stick around through early spring before they head back to the Arctic.

“This year’s Snowy Owl irruption is the largest we’ve seen in decades and this is an awesome opportunity for people to see these birds.

“A really great way to find out where they are in your area is to check out the live maps at eBird, which tracks reports of the Snowy Owls at www.eBird.org. Snowy Owls are one of the most impressive animals on the planet. You don’t have to be a bird watcher to appreciate how cool they are!”

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