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.

Patagonia rest-stop effect and Snowy Owls

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird sightings Updated: January 3, 2014 - 6:10 PM

The Snowy Owls being seen in Minnesota are not evenly distributed through the state, or so it seems from reports. There are clusters in Dakota County, and west of us in the Litchfield area and beyond. The question has been asked, why there?

It could be what in the birding world is known as the Patagonia rest-stop effect. The name comes from a rest stop on the way to Patagonia, Arizona, a town in the southeast part of that state known for good birding.

A birder at the rest stop once found a rare bird. Word spread. Other birders visited the rest stop. The original find eventually was gone, but birders kept finding other interesting species, word went out, other birders stopped, and so on. The phenomenon got a name that now covers similar situations. 

Perhaps owls are being found in clusters because those are the areas where birders are looking. The first-found owl draws birders who then see other owls. Word goes out, and so on.

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