Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Snowy Owl - Conclusion

It is with sadness that I report on a phone call yesterday from the Raptor Center in St. Paul. Our rescued snowy owl did not survive. He, it was a he, essentially starved to death in spite of all the efforts to save him. Disappointed, I decided it was time to find out why so few of these visitors from the far north don’t do well in the lower forty- eight. Here are the reasons, as proposed by the experts at Cornel University, which is the nations leading collector of bird data (ebird) and research.
Scientists say the likely reason for the explosion a cycle of boom and bust among the owl and the lemmings they prey upon. Lots of lemmings lead to high reproduction rate among the owls. Few lemmings and the owl females don’t even ovulate. Last summer the owls' chief food source was abundant , allowing the adults to raise more young. More predators leads to fewer lemmings. Often it the young ones who head south in search of food.
Snowies are large, magnificent owls that have a wing span of 4 to 5 feet. Younger birds have speckled black markings; adult males grow whiter as they age. Our snowy was undoubtedly a young one
In Minnesota, the owls mostly eat small voles, mice and rabbits. Some are healthy, but others are weak and stressed. As youngsters, not all are good hunters yet.
It is likely that few of the younger owls reaching the United States survive to return to their breeding grounds. Perhaps catching mice and rabbits isn’t the same as catching lemmings. Many are malnourished. Not used to dense concentrations of roads and wires, in the arctic, the owls also crash into cars and power-lines. Observation at the Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester showed us a severely drooping wing.... likely broken. To rehabilitate owls is reportedly very difficult. Snow owls in particular do not care for anything other that live prey. Disappointing as our experience was we did all we could to help... and know that new generations of this beautiful bird will repopulate the bird. And the cycle will go on....

17 comments:

  1. I am sorry he did not survive. Thank you for doing your best to get him help.

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  2. I too am so sorry to hear that he died. But you were the only chance he had, and it's good that you tried to save this magnificent creature.

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  3. So sorry to hear this. We're still seeing a few of them here and there down in our area. Don't know when they'll head back, or if they ever will.

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  4. Aww, I am so sorry. I was hoping you had found him in time. I have never seen one and I guess they will never make it this far south.
    Sad about the hunting but interesting about the females not ovulating if game is scarce. Nature is smarter than we are.

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  5. Sorry to hear a sad end, but I'm grateful you were able to take part in his recovery effort and see a young snowy up close. Thank you for sharing what you've learned.

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  6. I'm sorry to hear that Snowy did not survive, but I'm still glad that you and your friends made the effort to rescue him.

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  7. Sorry to hear the Snowy didn't make it but I know you are still glad you gave him a chance.

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  8. So sad that he didn't make it. From what I have heard they are fragile birds. Thanks for trying! :)

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  9. Sad that the owl did not survive, but how wonderful that such caring people gave it a try.

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  10. It was nice you tried to get it back on its feet.

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  11. I just read all 3 posts in a row with mounting hope. I'm so sorry your feathered friend did not survive but it was good of you to try to save him. What a gorgeous bird he was. I've seen owls in Maine but not snowy ones.

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  12. How sad he did not make it - but you all gave it your best shot.
    I remember cutting up dead mice and voles to force feed injured screech owls until they started to feed themselves. Not my favorite job, but how great when they DO recover. I sure do hate to lose one.

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  13. With out their common food it is a wonder that are coming further south. It was a great thing that you did and there is only so much you could control.

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  14. So sorry to hear this beautiful snowy did not survive! I have wondered too why they can't make it down here in the winter in our areas. Give that Baron a big pat on the head for me and Scout!!

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  15. Aw, sorry to hear that your snowy didn't make it. But at least your rescue gabe him a chance.

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  16. Very interesting. Dispersal of young is very common with mammals (also with low survival rate), makes sense with snowies too. I guess there's a reason the snowy range doesn't extend further south.

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