Date: 1/9/21 6:30 am
From: <phawk254...>
Subject: [MASSBIRD] Surprising (?) Snowy Owl Behavior
Julie and I were on Plum Island on January 8 and observed a rather heavily barred Snowy Owl sitting roughly 100 yards out in the marsh from the refuge road, where it appeared relatively safe from human harassment. I was photographing it while Julie was admiring it through the scope at 60X when she asked "What is the owl doing?" The owl had stretched out, apparently flat on its belly, looking like a penguin about to slide off the rock into the water (but the wings were held tightly to the body). I sagely suggested perhaps it had seen a vole or mouse approach oblivious to the owl and was stretching slowly to snatch it, similar in behavior to a heron.

Then I caught saw movement out of the top of my field of view. An adult Bald Eagle was rapidly approaching from the south, perhaps sixty feet off the ground. The owl had obviously seen the eagle and had flattened itself into a small "melting pile of snow." The eagle flew directly overhead and past, seemingly oblivious to the feathered snow-pile. The owl craned its neck to follow the eagle, and then stood up, eyes fixed on the now fast disappearing eagle. The owl then assumed the normal relaxed vertical posture it had had less than a minute earlier.

I've seen similar behavior by squirrels attempting to avoid a hawk, but never seen a Snowy react this way before.

Best,
Paul

Paul M. Roberts
Medford, MA
<phawk254...>
 
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