Lorraine Chow Dec. 20, 2018 01:46PM EST
For birders and fans of Hedwig from the Harry Potter series, spotting a snowy owl in the wild is a special treat as these great white raptors spend most of their lives in the Arctic.
But sightings further south have become more common in North America in recent winters. As the Ottawa Citizen reported this week, sightings of the charismatic owl have soared in Eastern Ontario for the last six years.
This "irruption"—an influx of a species to areas they aren't usually found—could be a sign that there's not enough food for the snowies around their usual home.
Because of climate change, the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, causing dramatic shifts to ecosystems. This warmth has caused the region to become more green.
As a result, rodents have more vegetation to graze on, thus increasing the prey base for snowy owls. This abundance in prey, a bird expert suggested to Ottawa Citizen, has resulted in successful breeding seasons for the snowy owls. But with more owls hunting in the same area, the less successful hunters end up traveling south in search of food.