DEC 28, 2017 7:52 AM PST

Migration Season Gives Scientists an Opportunity to Study Snowy Owls

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

As beautiful as the snowy owl is, animal experts know very little about it. On the other hand, their extensive headcount near the Great Lakes in the Northern United States signals how their migration season is upon us.

Migration season is helping researchers study the life and behavior of snowy owls.

Image Credit: Pixabay

For researchers, it’s an opportunity to trap a few snowy owls and outfit them with specialized tracking devices that can tell us more about their unique lifestyle. Among the types of information that these transmitters provide are movement patterns and environmental conditions encompassing the raptors, among other things.

"There is still a lot that we don't know about them, but we aim to answer the questions in the next few years," said Canadian biologist Jean-Francois Therrien, a senior researcher at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania.

"They look around the Arctic. The movement is amazing to watch on a map: There are no straight lines. They're zigzagging."

Related: Snowy owls in Southern climates?

These transmitters operate via solar power and utilize the same cellular towers that our smartphones and tablets use to send and receive internet data. Whenever a tracked snowy owl flies within proximity of one of these towers, the device uploads information to a private database for researchers to study on a computer.

Initial estimates suggested that there might be around 300,000 snowy owls in the wild, but the researchers involved with this study say that number is probably closer to 30,000. Nevertheless, there isn’t enough recorded information about snowy owls to know if their populations are declining or not.

Given just how little we know about them, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the bird on the organization's Red List as a “vulnerable” species.

Related: Barn owls' sense of hearing doesn't deteriorate with age

Conservationists hope that this research might spur discoveries concerning the species’ lifestyle and wild population numbers. The snowy owl’s diet is of particular interest because fluctuations in natural food source availability could set off a chain reaction that impacts the snowy owls directly.

Climate change is one of the driving factors that can impact the snowy owl’s natural prey, such a lemmings, and it’s something that researchers want to keep a close eye on. Since there isn’t much of a starting point for snowy owl populations today, it’s vital that we gather data as soon as possible so that we can take the proper steps for conservation when the time comes.

It should be interesting to see what the researchers can gather from the new tracking data; with any luck, it will go on to benefit scientific research.

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JAN 07, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 07, 2020
Baby Penguins Are Often Bullied to Death by Adults
Most people envision penguins as fun, happy-go-lucky birds residing in the Earth’s chilly polar regions, but that’s not always the case. In fac...
JAN 26, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 26, 2020
Iguanas Are Falling From Trees in Florida
The state of Florida has endured an exceptionally chilly Winter season this time around, and some of the state’s wild critters are taking notice. Whi...
JAN 31, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 31, 2020
Medicinal Marijuana May Not Aid Sleep Problems Long Term
A new study published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care suggests that medical marijuana may not aid sleep problems resulting from chronic p...
FEB 02, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 02, 2020
Noasaurid Fossil Confirms Cretaceous Existence on Australia
A class of two-legged carnivorous dinosaur dubbed noasaurids are said to have existed in later half of the Cretaceous Era, but our understanding of their g...
FEB 11, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 11, 2020
How the World's Fastest Cat Compares to the World's Fastest Dog
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal; their powerful hind legs give them incredible launching power and their stretchy spines provide a massi...
MAR 23, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAR 23, 2020
Grasshopper declines signal failing praries
Grasslands cover over 30% of Earth's landmass and account for the majority of cropland globally. Yet, new research published in the Proceedings of the ...
Loading Comments...