Typically, the Snowy Owls that we see in our region during the winter months are not mature adults. The fledged owlets have yet to fully develop the skills needed to hunt in the Arctic tundra where food is in short supply during the winter months. The immatures migrate south in search of more plentifully available food in warmer hunting grounds. Not all Snowy Owlets migrate south, and some even migrate further north, heading for patches of open water to feed on fish.
The above though does not explain why there are so many Snowy Owls this year. One reason scientists speculate is that the Snowy Owl is having an irruptive year because it was so warm in the Arctic this past summer. There may have been an explosion in the Arctic lemming population, which would lead to a strong rate of survival amongst Snowy Owlets.
A recent controversy involving the slaughtering of Snowy Owls by The New York Port Authority was solved by adopting Boston’s Logan Airport model of capturing and relocating the Snowies. Why are Snowy Owls so interested in airports when they really prefer open areas such as sand dunes, marshes, native grasslands, jetties, and undisturbed beaches? Habitat destruction. As native grasslands have given way to development, in some regions, the only remaining open habitats are found at airports.
To learn more about the Magic of the Snowy Owl see this beautiful film from the PBS Nature series: Magic of the Snowy Owl
All images courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
See more: Video shot in December, 2013, of a Snowy Owl encounter with a pair of Peregrine Falcons.