Snowies are starting to show up around the northern U.S. Here in Western New York there are three birds hanging out at the Finger Lakes Regional Airport (0G7) in Seneca, NY. The airport staff allowed us on the field where a friend of mine and I got many wonderful shots of a juvenile on the ground by the runway. The owl didn’t seem to mind so long as we walked
slowly and kept our distance. However, the bird finally tired of us and flew a short way down the field, our shutters continuously snapping as he/she launched.
We then drove to the nearby Empire Farm, and wouldn’t you know, there was another juvenile sitting on a metal roof. We were able to photograph it from both sides of the building, all the while sitting in our car. It was just a great photo op.
The juvenile birds are more likely to fly south during the winter since food is more plentiful here, as the young birds are not yet skillful hunters. However, every several years there is a great irruption of Snowy Owls (the last was two years ago), the birds sometimes going as far south as Alabama. These irruptions include far more mature birds and occur in those years when the tundra’s lemming population crashes, the owls’ staple food.
Although the Snowy Owl population is decreasing, according to the Birdlife International Data Zone:
The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
You can see more Snowy Owl photos at my gallery.