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A: Each winter we get a few snowy owls. But invasion years like the one we are enjoying depend on Canada’s lemming population. The owls don’t breed unless the lemming supply is adequate, according to Smith.
Q: Is change in the Arctic climate a factor in this?
A: Smith says no one knows.
Q: How long will the owls be here?
A: In Massachusetts, Smith said, the birds arrived in November and will leave in April. Ours probably are on the same schedule.
Q: Will we see owls another winter? Is the population stable?
A: These owls are found in the cold northern lands that circle the globe. No one knows how many owls there are, so no one knows if the population is going up or down, according to Smith.
Q: Where in Minnesota are the birds being seen?
A: Most of the owls have been found in rural areas where farmland is flat and open. This land looks like home to the owls. The counties immediately west of Minneapolis have produced many reports of owls: Wright, Kandiyohi, Meeker, McLeod and Stearns. Dakota County also has had a number of sightings. Two owls have been seen in Maple Grove.
Owls tend to be found where people are looking for them.
Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join his conversation about birds at www.startribune.com/wingnut.