|Snowy Owl taken at Little Talbot State Park, Florida|
This winter is also unusual because we have had unusual visitors. Some bird species have irruptive (ĭ-rŭp′tĭv) years. This means during the winter these birds migrate to different locations. It could be further south, east or west. Although this unusual movement seems out of place, this irruption happen in cycles. Scientists are not sure why different birds have irruptive years. Some believe the birds are looking for food, while others believe breeding season had a high success rate.
This year one of the most exciting irruptive species is the Snowy Owl. One has been on the Atlantic Coast at Little Talbot Island, east of Jacksonville, Florida since the beginning of December. Snowy Owls are also in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and all along the eastern coast. Although this owl has not been seen in Alabama yet, you never know when one might show up. Snowy Owls have visited Alabama twice in the past. The first visit was March 17, 1964. This owl was perched on a rowboat at Dauphin Island. The other sighting was in Opelika. This Snowy Owl was hanging out on the roofs of downtown buildings from December 24, 1974 through January 19, 1975.
Other bird species that have irruptive years are Red-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, Common Redpoll, and Evening Grosbeak. Usually, during the winter, Purple Finches and Pine Siskins are scattered throughout Alabama. This year these birds are in scarce numbers throughout the state. However, it is not an irruptive year for them.
What irruptive species have you seen?
|Harlequin Duck taken at Fort Clinch State Park, Florida|
For Budding Ornithologists:
If you do not have a bird field guide, you can access online guides for free at the following web sites. Get your parents permission before going online.
· eNature bird Field Guide
· Cornell Lab of Ornithology