Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

February 2015

Vol. 43, No. 1

The Snowy Owl Winter of 2013-14

Norman Smith


Snowy Owl after release. (All photographs © Raymond MacDonald)

The winter of 2013–2014 was an incredible year for seeing Snowy Owls in both eastern Canada and the eastern United States. Snowy Owls were recorded as far south as Bermuda, Florida, and Louisiana. It was by far the best winter for Snowy Owls that I have observed in Massachusetts since 1981 when I started my research on wintering Snowy Owls at Logan International Airport in Boston.

To put last winter in perspective, the greatest number of Snowy Owls I had captured and banded at Logan Airport previously in one winter was 43 in the winter of 1986–87, and the total banded in the Greater Boston area was 53 in the winter of 2011–12. During the winter of 2013–14, I banded 120 Snowy Owls at Logan Airport alone. I banded a total of 176 new owls and captured three owls that I had banded in previous years for a total of 179 Snowy Owls captured in the Greater Boston area. Most of those owls—96%—were hatch year owls in good condition. They were seen throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from the first sighting in a backyard in Dorchester to the top of Mount Greylock and everywhere in between: downtown Boston, parks, refuges, beaches, cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

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