Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

N.Y. airport might shoot snowy owls, but not MSP

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Bird migration, Bird sightings Updated: December 11, 2013 - 2:14 PM

Snowy owls are being seen along the East Coast as far south as Virginia in what appears to be a significant irruption year for these owls in that part of the country. Dozens if not hundreds of owls have been reported. Birders are delighted with what is a most unusual opportunity for them.

Major airports, large and flat and winter white right now are attractive to snowy owls, resembling the flat tundra habitat they call home. Airports don’t like birds of any species on their property because of possible bird-plane collisions. Fatal accidents have happened.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is no different in its appeal to this owl species, but perhaps different in that snowy owls are pretty regular there, albeit in low single-digit numbers.

New York”s JFK airport had an owl problem last week. It was solved with shotguns. This made news, stimulating loud outcry from birders and conservation groups. A switch to live-trapping quickly followed.

At our largest airport harassment is the first means used to move owls off the property, according to Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the metropolitan airport commission. Fake coyotes and wolves also are employed, moved from place to place to simulate the presence of predators. If the owls persist, live-trapping is used. This work is done by the animal control division of the Department of Agriculture. 

Mr. Hogan assured me that the airport has never used or considered a method of removal that was fatal to the birds.

The owl pictured below was found near Aitkin a few years ago. In the past day or two snowy owls have been reported from that area, along witH great gray owls. The flecks of black on this bird's feathers indicates it is a juvenile, hatched this past spring. Juvenile snowy owls are those most frequently seen south of their usual habitat.

 

 

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