Tough winter for owls: A report has said that owls have experienced an exceptionally tough winter.
In some areas in North America, owls have had a difficult time finding food over the winter, with many dead or sick owls turning up.
The Associated Press reports that the sick, dead, and wounded owls are the result of “irruption,” according to ornithologists. The term refers to when hungry owls that spend the winter in Canada head south to seek food.
In Minnesota, many dead owls have been observed on the sides of roads, and injured or sick in bird feeders or at a wildlife rehab center in the state, reported AP. Geoff LeBaron, with the National Audubon Society, told the news agency that “they’re excruciatingly cute.”
Most have appeared in northern Minnesota and are mostly the tiny boreal owls, which are around 9 to 11 inches long, and have a 20 to 24-inch wingspan.
The owls head south because of a short supply of food, namely mice, voles, and lemmings. It could also be due to heavy snow cover that obscures the birds’ prey.
The boreal owl is found across Alaska, Canada, northern Eurasia, and is found in the western United States, according to Allaboutbirds.org.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website says it makes a “po-po-po-po” whistling sound.
The owls, which feed mainly a night, are rarely found in Minnesota, according to the agency. It said the owls are relatively uncommon, but they are not considered a threatened species.
Irruptions have also been seen in parts of British Columbia, New England, and in other some southern Canadian provinces.
“They definitely are not having a, quote, normal year,” the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center executive director Dr. Julia Ponder told AP. She said the Raptor Center is treating around 30 owls this week.
Frank Nicoletti, with the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, said he has guided tours across the state to watch owls. On Tuesday, Nicoletti said he picked up three dead owls, but claimed that this winter’s irruption is “mild” compared with previous seasons.
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