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Snowy Owls Make Another Rare Appearance in Northern Wisconsin

Sylvia Duckworth

A substantial number of snowy owls are spending the winter in Wisconsin again.

DNR Wildlife Biologist Jeremy Holtz says for the third year in a row the owls are venturing south from their arctic homes in search of food. 

He says the birds prefer to perch in high places near open areas. 

“In general, you think about owls being rodent eaters, so typically they’re going to set up shop in places where they’re gonna have a good view, and they can pick up small rodents that are moving around on top of the snow.”

Many birders have been keeping track of their sightings with an online map called Wisconsin e-bird.

Birder Nancy Richmond is part of the team that helps verify those sightings.  She's already spotted snowy owls seventeen times this year.   

“Snowy owls in particular are exciting because you can see them in the daytime. Most owls are active at night, but snowy owls tend to be active when we can see them – dusk, grey days, morning, evening.”

Richmond explains that snowy owls are more often seen in open areas like fields, and rarely seen in trees.  Her sightings have come largely in the Antigo area. 

“Snowy owls are not woodland owls, they don’t like trees so they avoid them. And they tend to perch on things so they can see what’s going on the field. Lots and lots of times you’ll see them on utility poles.”

Richmond says the birds have come south in search of food, and it’s important to watch the birds from a distance.  She says disturbing them will use up valuable energy reserves. 

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