Saturday, January 4, 2014

Project SNOWstorm

With the recent unprecedented Snowy Owl invasion throughout eastern and central North America, ornithologists have taken the opportunity to learn more about the owls that are showing up. Major questions about Snowy Owl biology stand to be addressed with a recent collaborative effort, dubbed Project SNOWstorm.

One of the major aims of Project SNOWstorm is to attach lightweight tracking devices to Snowy Owls that are captured to track their daily movements. This will help answer basic questions, such as when Snowy Owls actually hunt on their wintering grounds, and how far they roam on a day-to-day basis. These lightweight devices transmit data via cellular networks, with the ability to store hundreds of thousands of localities until close enough to a cell tower to send the data. Not only will we be able to see daily movements of Snowy Owls, potentially gathering data on movements for years, but by catching birds, researchers can learn about the health and condition of the birds that are showing up so far south of their normal range, and be able to say whether these are adult or young birds. To that end, Project SNOWstorm is also asking birders and photographers to submit their sightings, especially photographs that show the spread wings and tails of Snowy Owls, as that is the most useful way to age and sex an owl, to get an idea of what owls are showing up where.

Snowy Owl - Nassau Co., NY 
Snowy Owl - Nassau Co., NY

To accomplish all of these goals, and to take full advantage of the Snowy Owl irruption of 2013-2014, Project SNOWstorm is looking for donations to help fund the purchase of additional tracking units. To see how you can help, see their website here.

If you were wondering on the choice of name for the project, and why "SNOW" is capitalized, SNOW is the four-letter code for Snowy Owl used by bird banders and birders.

Note: all photos in this post are © Shawn Billerman

No comments:

Post a Comment