A good year to see Arctic avian visitors

Wisconsin State Farmer
Snowy owls rank among the most charismatic wildlife species in the world.

It's looking like another big year for snowy owls in Wisconsin. As of Nov. 20, at least 69 individual birds have been spotted in 31 counties statewide, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

This total rivals the 82 found by this date in 2015-16 and far exceeds the three birds found by now last year.

Sightings have been widespread across every corner of the state, with biggest numbers from Green Bay to Oshkosh, in the Chequamegon Bay area near Ashland, and along the Lake Michigan shoreline, including a remarkable six individuals at the Sheboygan lakefront on Nov. 19.

Wisconsin’s influx is part of a large irruption underway across the eastern two-thirds of the continent from the western Great Plains to the Atlantic coast, highlighted by owls as far south as Oklahoma and North Carolina.

While the cause of the irruption is unknown, most experts agree the periodic mass movements of the snowy owl are associated in some way with their primary northern prey source, a small rodent known as a lemming, according to the DNR.

Improve your chances of spotting a snowy owl by knowing their habitat, perches, diet, time of day and time of year. Check low-level perches in open habitats around dawn or dusk from November to March. 

More tips can be found on the  DNR's special snowy owl webpage, including where to report sightings.