Posted: March 11, 2014
This winter's unexpected arctic bird invasion has given owl researchers a rare opportunity. They're fitting a few of the errant owls with GPS backpacks to track their return to the Arctic.
This is Hungerford, a large female snowy owl. Last summer she was just a hatchling — a gray ball of fuzz in the middle of the Arctic tundra. In the fall, newly equipped with adult plumage, she flew thousands of miles south until she reached the coast of Maryland. And this winter, she became an important part of an unprecedented research project.
'Something Huge Is Going On'
Snowy owls are among the largest birds in North America, but scientists know very little about their behavior. The owls spend most of their days far from humans, hunting rodents and birds in the flat expanses of the Arctic Circle. In the winter, the owls move south, but they don't usually reach the United States. Most years, only a few are spotted in the northernmost states — a rare treat for birders. But this winter was different.