Snowy Owls in New York City

[b]Snowy Owl at Jones Beach, January 2012[/b][br]© David SpeiserSnowy Owl at Jones Beach, January 2012
© David Speiser

Thanks to the thousands of concerned people who contacted the Port Authority and signed petitions to protest Snowy Owl cullings at JFK Airport in early December 2013, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agreed to immediately implement a trap and relocate program, similar to an effective program employed at Boston's Logan Airport.

The Port Authority's official press release is below:


“The Port Authority is working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to move immediately toward implementing a program to trap and relocate Snowy Owls that pose a threat to aircraft at JFK and LaGuardia airports. The Port Authority’s goal is to strike a balance in humanely controlling bird populations at and around the agency’s airports to safeguard passengers on thousands of aircrafts each day. Over the past two weeks, five planes at JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports were struck by Snowy Owls that have been migrating to our region in far higher than typical numbers this year.” 

This happy solution, which followed reports of Snowy Owl shootings at JFK Airport in early December, was the result of some fast footwork on the part of local conservation organizations, spearheaded by the Audubon family. Audubon New York and NYC Audubon sent a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey immediately following the first reports of cullings, urging the Port Authority to employ non-lethal methods of control and relocation in lieu of culling. We also reached out to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as well as the Governor. You can read the letter here. Or, click here to see the final press release announcing the agreement. NYC Audubon has offered our assistance with their relocation program, and will keep you updated!

It appears this winter may be another big one in our area for Snowy Owls, which wander southwards ( or "irrupt") across the United States in certain years and tend to visit open, tundra-like habitats similar to their northern hunting grounds, such as airports. Big irruption years are thought to be tied to the scarcity of food resources in the birds' northern range, as well as to the number of successful Snowy Owl fledgings in a particular year. When populations of rodents, the owl's primary prey, are high, Snowy Owls tend to fledge a lot of young. In such "bumper crop" years, so many young owls may need to wander far to find enough to eat.

Thank you all for your efforts to encourage the Port Authority to adopt a non-lethal strategy of owl control at area airports. We couldn't have achieved this victory without the help of thousands of concerned people like you.  

Click here to donate to NYC Audubon today, and help us continue to advocate for Snowy Owls and all of New York City's wildlife and habitat.

If you go to look for Snowy Owls, please be considerate of these visitors to our area and show them respect by keeping your distance and avoiding disturbing them.

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