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
MAY 07, 2020
Health & Medicine
Mosquito Feeding Time Shift Impacts Malaria Prevention Methods
MAY 07, 2020
Mosquito Feeding Time Shift Impacts Malaria Prevention Methods
Thanks to the success of insecticide-treated bed nets, mosquitos seem to have shifted their feeding times away from the ...
MAY 07, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Your Night Light Could Be a Glowing Plant
MAY 07, 2020
Your Night Light Could Be a Glowing Plant
Glowing plants light themselves up House plants are not just decorations: thanks to science, they might become a part of ...
MAY 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
These Penguin Chicks Now Face the Trials of Adulthood
MAY 31, 2020
These Penguin Chicks Now Face the Trials of Adulthood
Like any other bird species, adult penguins follow the tried and true tradition of raising their young close to the nest ...
JUN 07, 2020
Plants & Animals
Everything You Need to Know About the Tawny Frogmouth
JUN 07, 2020
Everything You Need to Know About the Tawny Frogmouth
Tawny frogmouths (Podargus strigoides) are a captivating species of nocturnal bird that, although owl-esque in terms of ...
JUL 08, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Caffeine Can Aid Lizard Conservation Efforts
JUL 08, 2020
How Caffeine Can Aid Lizard Conservation Efforts
Lizards are thought to be under threat due to habitat loss, predation, climate change, and other factors worldwide.
AUG 13, 2020
Plants & Animals
A Mutation May Have Helped Howler Monkeys Survive Yellow Fever
AUG 13, 2020
A Mutation May Have Helped Howler Monkeys Survive Yellow Fever
In 2007, an outbreak of yellow fever devastated the howler monkey population of El Parque El Piñalito. A genetic mutatio ...
Loading Comments...