Snowy owls continue to attract attention in the Red River Valley and parts of northwest Minnesota.
Heidi Hughes, manager of the Audubon Center of the Red River Valley near Warren, Minn., said she continues to receive reports about snowy owl sightings. No surprise, that; according to Hughes, ornithologists say this could be a record year for snowy owl sightings in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Hughes said the influx likely results from record production in the birds’ traditional tundra habitat. Typically, snowy owls move south when lemmings — their primary forage — crash in abundance. This year appears to be just the opposite: high lemming populations resulted in so many snowy owls being produced that younger birds have been pushed south, Hughes said.
Whatever the reason, the influx is a treat for birdwatchers.
In an effort to track snowy owl sightings, Hughes has set up a Red River Valley Snowy Owl Hotline at (218) 745-5663. Hughes asks that anyone who spots a snowy owl call with the following information:
1. Day of the week.
2. Time of day.
3. Location (from the nearest intersection — or GPS coordinate).
4. What the bird was perched on.
5. Description of the amount of black barring.
6. Relative size of the bird: (much bigger than a crow or about crow-size).
Avoid stressing the owls, Hughes said, adding she already has received one report of a snowy owl succumbing to starvation along state Highway 89 near Roseau, Minn.
Snowy owl reports also can be reported to Hughes at AgassizAudubon@gmail.com.