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Snowy owls at Presqu’ile park

A Snowy Owl perched upon a picnic table at Presqu'ile Park in Brighton. Photo by David Bree [1]

A Snowy Owl perched upon a picnic table at Presqu’ile Park in Brighton. Photo by David Bree

By Taylor Broderick [2]

BELLEVILLE –For the second winter in a row, more snowy owls than usual have travelled down from the north to stop at Presqu’ile Park [3] in Brighton.

The usual residence for a snowy owl is the Arctic. But once in a while a large number of owls will migrate south in order to look for new food resources, says Presqu’ile’s Park Naturalist, David Bree.

“Usually every five to 10 years it is a big snowy owl year, and lots of them are around this part of the world,” he said.

Snowy owls come south when their breeding season has been good. This is known as irruption [4], Bree says. They tend to travel together in larger numbers when their population up north is greater than the food resources available.

Bree says last year was one of the biggest irruptions that has occurred in the last century – with owls migrating as far south as Florida.

“This year seems to be another big year. Two years in a row is unusual,” he said.

Regardless if it is an irruption year, a few snowy owls will always come south during the winter season to hunt voles [5], he said.

Brighton almost always has owls hanging around Presqu’ile this time of year, but here, they normally feed on ducks.

“The water in lake Ontario rarely freezes so there is open water all winter and where there is open water there are ducks – so we always seem to have a few owls around,” Bree says.

Terry Sprague, a naturalist and author from the website Nature Stuff, [6] says the irruption of snowy owls we are experiencing this year is very similar to the one from last year because the breeding season was good both years.

“This … has forced many snowy owls to leave their home territory and seek better feeding grounds elsewhere for the winter months,” Sprague said.

Bree says last year, and earlier in the winter this year at Presqu’ile, there were a few more owls than usual. But now the number of snowy owls in the park have gone back to normal.

“Right now we have two to four around [Presqu’ile] which is actually pretty average,” Bree said.

 

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