February 6, 2016

Rare owls visit Wisconsin

A shortage of food has brought bird lovers in the Northwoods a treat this year.

DNR scientist Ryan Brady says every few years the populations of small rodents crashes in southern Canada, and owls that normally live there come south looking for lunch. Brady says that’s resulted in several species of owl, such as the Saw Whet or Barred owl, showing up this spring in numbers not seen in about eight years.

Those owls are looking mainly for mice, voles, and maybe an occasional squirrel or unwary bird.

Brady says it can have an impact on owls that are native to the state, since the late snow cover is already taxing the food supplies available. He says that can lead to extra stress for the birds and even starvation.

For those hoping to catch a glimpse of the rare birds, Brady says take a picture, but don’t approach them. He says the owls are stressed and the human interaction could kill them.

Sightings should be reported to the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology’s website. Brady says if you see a Saw Whet or Barred owl in trouble, contact your local DNR office.

Ken Krall, WXPR

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