Here’s more background on the movement of snowy owls from a Dec. 3 post at ebird.com:
Snowy Owls breed widely across the Arctic and move widely in search of resources suitable for breeding. These invasions tend to be driven by very good summer resources (lemmings primarily) in certain regions of the Arctic that lead to high breeding success. Many of the owls that move south are hatch-year birds (indicative of the high breeding success).
Even at this early stage, one might hypothesize that this year’s invasion originates from Snowy Owls in the eastern Arctic or Greenland, while the 2011-2012 one may have originated from the central or western Arctic. Making these direct connections is always difficult, but often patterns seen in eBird can lend insight into how birds are moving and where they may have originated. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as the winter progresses. Will the Snowy Owl movement continue? Will it gain strength in the West? Will other owl species move as well?
And another blurb from carolinabirdclub.org:
Arguably one of the most spectacular birds in North America, the Snowy Owl is, unfortunately, seldom seen in the South. Prior to 1950, there were records in the state every handful of years, a number of them from the Piedmont. Sadly, back in those days, many were shot, for a variety of reasons that would be considered today as heartless. In recent decades, southbound “invasions” of the species take place every few years, owing to shortage of rodents in Canada. In most recent winters, Snowies make it as far south as New Jersey, or perhaps Maryland or Virginia, but only once or twice in a decade do Snowy Owls reach North Carolina, almost always to the immediate coast. Snowy Owls are seldom seen on succeeding days, as the birds — though quite conspicuous as they sit on dunes, posts, or buildings during daylight hours — always seem to be on the move. The species is normally found around dunes or coastal grasslands; occasionally they are found at extensive fields.
More from Simon at Beautiful Mountain Cabins:
I have just spoken to the local rehabilitator here in Asheville who took in the Snowy Owl last night. The bird was very malnourished as to be expected from having strayed far south of its normal wintering range, so the chance of it being released any time soon is remote.
The good news is that it is not injured and, aside from being very thin, is not unhealthy. It’s hoped that it can be slowly brought back to its normal weight. Apparently the local landowner did manage to feed it a couple of live mice, upon which it pounced and “killed” before eating them.
Keep your fingers crossed for this owl to gain strength and recover.
One last thing- if anyone does come across another Snowy Owl, which seems somewhat likely this winter, please stay as far away from the bird as possible to avoid flushing it. This Brevard bird was flushed several times by folks trying to get a “better” photograph, so please, please keep your distance.
Thanks very much
You can learn more about the Snowy Owl “invasion” of the southeastern U.S. on Twitter with #invasion2013.
Good link here: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/gotsnowies2013/?src=s._20131210_15439114
The latest from last night’s news 12/11 is that it looks like the owl might have a bacterial infection, and is getting antibiotics. The naturalist that is caring for her is now “cautiously optimistic” that she will recover. I guess he will help return her to a healthy weight and release her.
Thank you for the update, Jen!