Tag Archive | winter birds of alberta

Snowy Owls of the Calgary Area

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Don Whittaker Feb 2014

Photo by Don Whittaker, February 2014.

We used to have a page on the blog in the winter months which gave details of every Snowy Owl sighting that we heard about that was within about 80 km of Calgary. Although that page was by far the most popular thing we’ve ever done, we stopped doing it for a few reasons. First, it was a lot of work every day to track down all reports of Snowy Owl sightings on Albertabird, the Alberta Birds Facebook Group, eBird, and any other source we could find. Second, there were some allegations that a few unethical birders or photographers had been baiting the owls, and we didn’t want to make it too easy for these people to find the birds.

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Photo by Rob English, February 2013.

Snowy Owl Blackie, AB February 1, 2014

Photo by Dan Arndt, February 2014.

However, I think that most birders and photographers in the Calgary area already know the best places to find the owls – generally speaking, east and northeast of the city. It is not hard to find that basic information on eBird, or on any birding or bird photography site. In this age of social media, all we can do is keep trying to educate people and encourage ethical birding and photography practices.

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Photo by Philip Kanwischer, December 2014

Recently Dan Arndt created an eBird site that shows all the eBird reports of Snowy Owls from October through December. Here is a snapshot of that page as of December 13. It gives a good idea of where the owls are being seen. (I’m sure there are Snowy Owls out on the prairies farther east and north of Calgary, but the reports reflect the large number of birders who live in Calgary and only travel as far as needed to find some owls.)

eBird Map Dec. 13

To view this eBird page with sightings up to the minute, click this link. The link will be available on our right-hand sidebar until the end of the Snowy Owl season in April 2015. Once you click the link to go to the eBird page, you can then zoom in to the Calgary area, and when the teardrop shaped markers appear, click on any of them to see when the owl was seen, who reported it, and, if you wish, their complete checklist and the map of the location.

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Photo by Rob English, February 2013.

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Photo by Rob English, February 2013.

Snowy Owls will sometimes sit on the ground, where they can be difficult to find against the snow, but most often they are on an elevated perch like a telephone pole, road sign, gas pipe, or tree. A little exploring on the backroads on the prairies will usually turn up at least a few this winter. Some birders have reported as many as fifteen owls in one trip. If you do go out looking, please keep a respectful distance and try not to to force the owls to fly.

Here are some more Snowy Owl photos that our readers have sent to us during the past year. All of the photos were taken in the Calgary area.

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Photo by Tony King, November 2014.

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Photo by Tony King, November 2014.

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Photo by Sharif Galal, March 2014.

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Photo by Sharif Galal, March 2014.

March 2014

A light owl on a post. Photo by Tony LePrieur, March 2014.

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A dark owl on a post. Photo by Tony LePrieur, November 2014.

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A very dark owl in flight. Photo by Tony Leprieur, November 2014.

Finally, here is a sequence showing a Snowy Owl coughing up a pellet, from December 2013. All photos below by Moe Zaleschuk.

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