2014-04-10 / Nature

Snowy Owls Still Being Sighted


On Wednesday, April 9 three Snowy Owls were reported on the property of Sachuest Point NWR at 9:30 a.m.. Two of the young raptors were sighted within 300 yards of each other in the north field of the refuge and one was observed in the marsh area. A male Red-tailed Hawk was also hunting in the northern region and engaged in aerial sparring with one of the Snowy Owls. (Photo by Jack Kelly) On Wednesday, April 9 three Snowy Owls were reported on the property of Sachuest Point NWR at 9:30 a.m.. Two of the young raptors were sighted within 300 yards of each other in the north field of the refuge and one was observed in the marsh area. A male Red-tailed Hawk was also hunting in the northern region and engaged in aerial sparring with one of the Snowy Owls. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Dear Jack:

Why are the snowy owls still here? I see one in the marsh behind Third Beach in Middletown on a daily basis. I hope he is not injured or is not getting enough food. The owls should have been on their way north long ago.

Also, please keep your column coming. It is very informative and, as newcomers to the area, has given us many new areas to explore to see wildlife.

Pat Sawicki

Newport Pat, thanks for writing.

This question has been asked a lot lately. According to a number of sources, it is not unusual to see a few Snowy Owls this far south into early and mid-April. This year’s irruption of juvenile owls was historic in its scope, the largest in over 40 years. The young raptors flew as far south as Florida and as far west as Kentucky. As these birds move back to their normal ranges they will follow the coast, and we may see transients in the days to come. Sachuest Point, with its large open fields and marsh system with abundant prey, as well as its large number of coastal wintering waterfowl, is a perfect hunting ground for these birds. There is still a shortage of food in the north, and the longer the owls linger at the refuge, the greater their chances of survival. The cooler-than-average temperatures of March and early April have allowed the birds to remain in the area and avoid possible starvation.


8-inch-tall, Northern Saw-whet Owl 8-inch-tall, Northern Saw-whet Owl Rachel Farrell, an avid birder, state avian statistician, and cocompiler of “Field Notes of Rhode Island Birds,” commented, “We have seen reports indicating that many of the Snowy Owls have begun their return trips north. This is not a normal year due to the size of this year’s irruption, but it is not uncommon to see a few remain longer in areas where there is plentiful prey and habitat. There have been reports from coastal areas of owls moving through and stopping to rest and feed.”


The awards ceremony opened with a presentation by Horizon Wings, a wildlife rehabilitation center. Mary-Beth Kaeser, a rehab specialist, described how this Red-tailed Hawk serves as a surrogate mother to young raptors brought in to the center. (Photo by Jack Kelly) The awards ceremony opened with a presentation by Horizon Wings, a wildlife rehabilitation center. Mary-Beth Kaeser, a rehab specialist, described how this Red-tailed Hawk serves as a surrogate mother to young raptors brought in to the center. (Photo by Jack Kelly) As far as the Snowy Owl that has been observed in the marsh for the past six weeks, it is healthy, well fed, and seemingly quite content in its environment. The species is highly territorial and this particular bird has established its territorial boundaries within the marsh, much the same as the two on the refuge’s upper property have done during the past three months. It is a creature of habit, waiting for prey and resting in the same area on a daily basis. Wildlife enthusiasts have monitored its progress. Sandra Trocki of Middletown, an experienced and long-time local birder, has chronicled the young owl for the past few weeks and has noted its almost clockwork schedule of resting, feeding and moving within the marsh.

Owls are very capable of cooling themselves in warmer temperatures by panting (similar to a dog) and by plumage manipulation. However, the time will come when they need to leave. Until then, enjoy the remarkable specimens gracing our area.

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