Why are More
Snowy Owls Visiting Pennsylvania?
4, 2013- Tom Joseph
PITTSBURGH - If you're fortunate
enough to see one in Pennsylvania, it is quite a sight. The snowy owl, with its
white feathers and striking yellow eyes, is being spotted in locations
Some question whether its presence here is an indication of climate change.
When this bird doesn't find what it needs in the Arctic regions it hails from,
said Brian Shema, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Western
Pennsylvania, it picks up and moves.
"Snowy owls are opportunistic, just like all birds are," he said.
"If they find that food is difficult or conditions are difficult for them
in their northern territories, they'll certainly move south for a better
opportunity to basically stay alive."
Shema said five snowy owls have been spotted lately in Erie County alone. Here,
they're likely to feed on rabbits, mice and other prey. They are also a good
species for biologists to keep an eye on because, unlike many owls, they are
diurnal, or active by day.
The snowy owl's usual source of food is the lemming, a small rodent of the
Arctic that many biologists believe could be, like polar bears, a victim of
global warming. Shema said birds also can provide valuable information about
"Some have tried to develop correlations between bird trends and climate
change," Shema said, "so certainly we look at birds quite often as
kind of 'indicator species' of what's going on out there."