Ask any Hoosier birder: It’s an incursion year.
Snowy Owls originating from the Arctic tundra are migrating south this
winter to the Great Lakes and Midwest Plains states and have been seen in
Northwest Indiana at Miller Beach in Lake County, at the Port of Indiana in
Porter County, and at Washington Park Beach in Michigan City.
According to migratory bird biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (Service), this rare southerly migration of the Snowy Owl may be the
result of a decline in its forage base and a productive breeding season. The
migration began this October and the birds are expected to remain in
portions of the United States until late winter or early spring, the Service
Unlike many owls, Snowy Owls thrive in open grasslands, nest on the ground,
and hunt mainly during the day. They feed on small mammals, waterfowl, birds
and fish, and, their coloring, large size, unique hunting behavior and
remote habitat distinguish them from other owl species.
“Since Snowy Owls tend to remain in the Arctic year-round, we are fortunate
to have the opportunity to see them in the upper Midwest this winter,
Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius said. “I encourage people to
get outside and add seeing this owl in the wild to their life list, However,
as these birds tend to be in open areas and active during the day, please be
aware and respectful so these Arctic visitors can return home in the
Although many adult Snowy Owls are thriving on their wintering grounds in
the upper Midwest, younger birds appearing weak, thin or flightless may be
emaciated from their long migration over the boreal forests of Canada. Folks
who see a Snowy Owl in this condition should contact their local wildlife
rehabilitator. In Indiana: www.entm.purdue.edu/wildlife/NWCO&REHAB.htm#INDIANA%20REHABILITATORS
Snowy Owls are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Under the Act,
taking, killing or possessing migratory birds is prohibited. Violation of
this Act warrants arrest, jail time, penalties and fines under the
jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.