Skip to main content

snowy owls

Death of snowy owl reported at Genesee County Airport

By Howard B. Owens


Area wildlife photographers were shocked and saddened Friday to find a dead snowy owl Friday afternoon atop a utility pole near the Genesee County Airport.

The DEC confirmed today that it was notified of a dead snowy owl that had been banded at that location.

National Grid, after being contacted by the DEC on Friday, assisted in recovering the animal from atop the utility pole (see video below).

Local photographer Jim Burns (who freelances for The Batavian) is a wildlife photographer and a frequent visitor to the airport, which attracts both numerous snowy owls and photographers. He said such deaths as this animal's are not uncommon. The owls fall victim to electrocution (the possible cause in this case), being hit by cars and poisoning. 

Poisoning is perhaps the most preventable cause of death of snowy owls. The owls feast on rodents and if the rodents were poisoned before becoming an owl's meal, the owl is poisoned as well.

"That's the main message to get out there," Burns said. "People should put out traps instead of poison."

Though still rare, the birds have been showing up in WNY in recent years, probably, because their northern hunting grounds are becoming crowded. It's generally the younger birds who migrate south. Burns estimated the deceased owl was no more than 2 years old.

The birds are banded by Operation SNOWstorm, which tracks snowy owls to assist in their preservation.  

The Department of Environmental Conservation asks that if you find a dead banded bird, report it on the website

Photo by Margy Meath.Video by Oded Kalir.

Snowy owls return to Genesee County

By James Burns


Snowy owls have returned to the area. There are currently an estimated three to five in Genesee County. We did not have any consistent sightings last year like we did a few years ago.

This year’s snowy owl irruption (a sudden sharp increase in the relative numbers of a natural population usually associated with favorable alteration of the environment) was caused by a four-year cycle of lemming births that lead to an abundant food supply for the owls in the Arctic Circle this last spring and summer. This large food supply lead to a larger than normal birth rate of owls. Because there are more snowy owls, the young ones need to go further away in the winter to find uncrowded hunting grounds. This is why we currently have so many birds here in Western New York.

The 2014-2014 snow owl irruption was the largest on record (records have been kept on snowy owls since 1890) Given the number of snowy owls that are currently in NY State, this year may surpass even the 2013-2014 irruption.

If you go out to see this winter's snowy owls or any of the other area raptors, please be courteous and safe when doing so. Respect all rules of the road and private property. If you are observing the birds with binoculars try to stay in your car to use it as a blind. If you are trying to photograph the bird, a lens over 400mm is suggested. Do not approach the bird any closer than 100 yards. If the bird is closer than 100 yards to the road it is considered OK to observe from your car. 





Authentically Local