Owls in Minnesota    Edward Frank
   Feb 09, 2005 19:38 PST 

Subject: Owls in Minnesota
Date: Tue, 08 Feb 2005 19:59:53 -0700

On the evening news tonight was a story about an owl "invasion" in
Minnesota. Apparently due to a lack of food in Canada, many owls have
moved south and there are record numbers of owls in Minnesota. Has anyone
seen them, and if so what are conditions really like for photographing them?


Subject: Re: Owls in Minnesota
From: "Gordon Dietzman"
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2005 21:37:32 -0600


I've been up to photograph them (I live in the Twin Cities area). A three
weeks ago I spotted 38 in just 4-1/2 hours of driving backcountry roads
north and west of Duluth in the Sax-Zim area (two small towns).

Many were right next to the road and pretty much ignored us. Since these
birds typically hunt in boreal forest openings they are right at home along
the edges of wooded lanes. Since broken off stubs and snags are preferred
perching places, we found owls on telephone poles, fence posts and even
road signs. We didn't stop to photo those perched on signs at the edge of
the road for the fear of spooking them; they need to be hunting right now
and so driving them from those perches makes them use up extra energy.

(links unavailable)

All these shots were taken with a 300mm/1.4x/digital Rebel, or some such
combination. We also saw five northern hawk owls, one of which was perched
on a telephone cable next to the road.

This is truly a remarkable irruption. Despite traveling, paddling, and
hiking literally thousands of miles in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota,
I've never seen anything like this. For instance, a number of winters ago
we had another irruption and in two days of driving north of Duluth, I saw
five birds, only one of which I was able to approach (and this was on
snowshoes over four feet of snow...exhausting work...). I thought that was
a remarkable couple of days. This irruption is undoubtedly a once in a
lifetime event.

As mentioned above, the owls pretty much ignored us. As a result, we were
often within 50 feet of them for as long as we wanted to be. We often
could watch one owl and spot another hunting some distance away.

Also, for more information you might want to check out the Minnesota
Ornithological Union's bulletin board. There are currently a number of
postings there that go into the irruption and the numbers much more
thoroughly. See the discussion group at:


Gordon Dietzman

Subject: Re: Owls in Minnesota
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2005 05:53:24 -0500

The Great Grey Owl is in invasion in south of Canada since December. It's
the greatest invasion since 20 years. It's due to lack of food that appears
each 4-5 years.

It is relatively active during the day, more active than other Owl. But the
best time to see it in activities is early morning and late in PM. During
the day, the Owl is in mode digestion "............. if hunting were good.
If not, the bird will continue to hunt until it finds a prey.


RE: Owls in Minnesota   Ernie Ostuno
  Feb 10, 2005 04:23 PST 


For at least the third year in a row, Snowy Owls have returned to the
Grand Rapids airport. I used to believe that seeing a Snowy Owl here was
a rare occurance, but it seems that this is an annual event lately. I
took some pics of one that was hunting rabbits in the office parking lot
two years ago and someone from the airport took some nice pics of one
last year. 

Unfortunately, it seems to be true that many of these birds fall victim
to their inexperience around people. One owl was killed by an airplane
and another injured at the airport last year. The injured owl was cared
for and it recuperated to the point that it was released. One other
note, almost all the captive Snowy Owls in Michigan died in the last two
years from West Nile virus.
So it's probably a good thing that they migrate back to the arctic
tundra for the summer.


RE: Owls in Minnesota   edward coyle
  Feb 10, 2005 05:26 PST 


Snowy owls winter range is a little below the Canadian border. Like many
species, the younger birds adventure farther outside their normal range,
sometimes as far as central California and Alabama. The younger bids are
more heavily barred with black and white.
The other northern owls, Northern Hawk Owl, Boreal Owl,and Great Gray Owl,
are real rarities south of the border, and a lot of people spend a lot of
money for a chance just to see one.
You are right about their inexperience with civilization. Even the Saw-Whet
Owls, a regular winter visitor, commonly get hurt, or killed, by flying into
the path of cars. Their lack of fear of humans does allow for some great
photo ops.

Ed C