New Research Tracks Snowy Owls Across Canada and Alaska

Frank Doyle releases a Snowy Owl. Photo by Alistair Blachford.

A new study describes the movements of breeding snowy owls across Northwest Canada and Alaska over the course of their seasonal movements.

From authors Frank Doyle, Jean-Fran├žois Therrien, Donald Reid, Gilles Gauthier and Charles Krebs:

“The authors were intrigued to discover that these owls spent winter in the north, not on the tundra, but in the mountainous regions of the boreal forest zone of Alaska and northern Yukon. This is the first telemetry study of Snowy Owls showing that they can winter in boreal forest latitudes. They chose particularly open, unforested habitats, such as subalpine taiga shrub lands and extensive wetlands, with lots of openings. Over most of the boreal forest biome these relatively open habitats are uncommon, so the mountains themselves are probably key to this result.

In winter, relatively few people live in these mountainous boreal regions, which included Denali National Park and the Yukon River Flats. Although the authors were not able to visit the wintering areas when the birds were there, they did get information from biologists and other people working in these regions, and suspect that these Snowy Owls were moving in search of high abundance of snowshoe hares and ptarmigan. There is still much to be learned about how the Owls get through this season.”

The research, “Seasonal Movements of Female Snowy Owls Breeding in the Western North American Arctic,” is published this month in the Journal of Raptor Research.

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