New Brunswick Tribune

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

As winter approaches, snowy owls flock to New Brunswick in large numbers

Snowy owls are flocking to New Brunswick in large numbers as winter approaches.

Key takeaways:

  • This winter, New Brunswick has seen an increase in Arctic visitors, which appears to be due to a population explosion.
  • According to Wilson, snowy owls will generally flee if approached by humans, so if it doesn’t, it could mean something is wrong with the bird.

This winter, New Brunswick is seeing more Arctic visitors than usual, and it appears that a population explosion is to blame.

So far this year, people have reported seeing more snowy owls than usual.

Although it is not uncommon for birds to migrate this far south in the winter, a sighting is still unusual.

According to naturalist and birder Jim Wilson, a good year for birds up north last year has forced many to migrate south this year.

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He claims that females lay more eggs when food is plentiful, as it was last year.

But now that more owls are looking for food, some birds are migrating south.

“They’re starting to come down instinctively looking for food, possibly as far south as our latitude,” Wilson said.

“That appears to be what is happening this early winter.”

Flying for suppers

According to Wilson, this pattern is cyclical, and the province can expect to see more snowy owls every few years.

When they visit New Brunswick, he says they usually stay along the coast.

Some owls arrive in the province bruised and battered from their journey.

He claims that the journey can leave the birds emaciated, hungry, and unable to hunt for themselves.

Then there’s the issue of culture shock.

“They’re in a different environment down here,” Wilson explained.

Snowy owls are flocking to New Brunswick in large numbers as winter approaches.
Snowy owls are flocking to New Brunswick in large numbers as winter approaches. Image from Birding Bob

“The tundra is devoid of trees… They prefer open spaces, but there is traffic here and predators and wires. There are numerous potential stumbling blocks.”

According to Wilson, if you see one, you should first check to see if the bird is okay.

According to Wilson, snowy owls will generally flee if approached by humans, so if it doesn’t, it could mean something is wrong with the bird.

In that case, informing the authorities is the best course of action.

“All raptors, including snowy owls, are protected under New Brunswick law as protected birds,” Wilson explained.

“If you have one that appears ill or unusually tame, the first thing I would do is call the nearest Department of Natural Resources branch and try to speak with someone there.”

Source: CBC News

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