Snowy Owls Invading Western New York


It looks like another year of abundant Snowy Owls here in Western New York, but it really takes looking around for these very disguised birds. They don’t call them snowys for nothing, so count yourself lucky to find one. They are very hard to locate. See if you can find one in the image below. That photo is zoomed in at 400mm too.


They blend into the snow-covered fields here where they are found hunting and resting. They are not nocturnal like many other owls and can hunt in daylight or at night. We had a light snowfall in the morning so they did not have much snow in which to take cover, but they do rest on snow making them more difficult to see. The snowys in the field are mere blobs of white, very distant to our location. I had to severely crop the images for you to even see the birds in this post.


They must have had a successful breeding year again and so did the lemmings apparently. More lemmings means more owls. This particular day we saw four young male Snowy Owls. Young owls are an indicator of high breeding success.

My mission this year is to find as many as possible since last year was the first year I saw them in any numbers. Snowy Owls are generally sedentary during the day, but get a lot more animated when hunting at dusk.

I hope to get them on the hunt at some point, but they are leery of people. In the Great Lake regions where we are between, the owls feed on ducks. If we get snow this winter, I will check the beaches.

Snowy Owls spend summers in the Arctic, nesting out on the tundra where few people visit. Photos of them in Alaska showed the owls on open snow-free grasslands. When they head our direction in the winter they find similar habitat at our airports.

Because native grasslands have been disappearing due to human development, airports are some of the only remaining open habitats. Other grassland species are also found at airports, including Eastern Meadowlarks, and American Kestrels. We saw the Kestrel (a very small raptor) at the airport along with three of the four owls.


So if you want to see Snowys, scan farmer fields, but don’t forget to look up! We almost missed this one right outside the car window.

Check out Garden Walk Garden Talk for where I am going to see eagles! I so hope the weather gods grant me fine photography weather, but that is not what is predicted. Big, big storm in a couple of days!

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30 Responses to Snowy Owls Invading Western New York

  1. Beautiful! Stunning photos as always. A treat. Thought you were in Hawaii right now Donna?
    Happy Christmas! Diane

  2. Beautiful photos of the snowy owls. I still have not seen any around our place yet. We have a lot of empty corn fields around here so I was hoping that they would hunt in those fields as well. And your photos confirm it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is amazing – I lived my whole life in upstate NY until a year ago, and I never would have dreamed we’d have Snowy Owls in New York! These are wonderful shots – you’re a great observer. I still can’t see the hidden one in the field, though ;-D

    • donna213 says:

      Thank you. I never saw them until last winter. Now they are popping up all over. The one in the field is the small white blob in the corn row almost straight down from the left corner of the building – about mid field, not mid image.

  4. I always found owls to be strange creatures probably because of the human-like face, but oh, they are so elegant and beautiful. 🙂

    • donna213 says:

      They are a bit strange. I found an injured one a while back. I carry welder’s gloves and towels in my Jeep for such an occasion. This particular bird had a broken wing and allowed me to handle it without any resistance. He watched me as I put him in the carrier and calmly went to the veterinarian. I trained as a rehabilitator, but never went for the license. One needs a place to do the work, like a farm. I never got a farm. I believe the bird may have been in shock to have no flight or fight response. It acted like a pet.

  5. I’m going to have to go hunting for them. We haven’t had sticking snow here for about ttwo weeks, so the snowy owls would be more vulnerable here. I’ve seen them in previous years, but none this year yet. They are fascinating and stunning.

    • donna213 says:

      I am in PA now and there was no more snow than you see in the photos. All they way through Syracuse and Binghamton, no snow. I am not surprised you have no snow either. I did see one flying across the fields of NY in the morning though.I was counting hawks and I stopped at 74. There was over 100 on the way to PA, and almost all of them except 2 were in NY. The owls are vulnerable to hawks, that is why they stay motionless on their snow pile. The one flying in the post was risking being harassed by hawks or crows.

  6. Such gorgeous birds, Donna! In your 3rd pic, he looks like he is actually made of snow. 🙂

  7. Emily Scott says:

    I guessed where it might be in the first photo, but don’t know if I got it right. Will you let us know where it is?

    • donna213 says:

      The one in the corn field is the small white blob in the corn row almost straight down from the left corner of the building – about mid field, not mid image. They are pretty smart staying in the middle of the field. No trees to be stalked by hawks, and far enough out to take flight from a coyote.

  8. It is my dream to see one of these beautiful birds…..wonderful to hear they are plentiful to find although not so around here.

    • donna213 says:

      There might be a number of them in our area, but they are not at all easy to find. It took three of us with high powered scopes and binoculars – we found four by scanning the fields. They often don’t appear like the one on the light fixture. My two companions missed it too, even though it was not more than 100 feet away. I did see one flying in a field around Montezuma on the way to PA.

  9. Great photos and a lot of good information, too. I always learn a lot from you.

  10. Lovely and enjoyable photo series…Appreciated on this cold, dreary, winter day.

  11. bittster says:

    Amazing pictures of an amazing bird. I hope you have plenty of luck finding them again this winter!

  12. Phil Lanoue says:

    Terrific photos of these beautiful owls Donna, and lucky you to have them around. I have never even seen one in person.

  13. Jet Eliot says:

    Stunning photos….

  14. aussiebirder says:

    Love coming back to look at these remarkable Snowy Owls… great shots!

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