With Michigan owls, know your birding etiquette

Leafless trees and frozen landscapes make winter a great time to glimpse some of Michigan’s avian species.

One visitor to Michigan during the winter months is the snowy owl. This large, magnificent owl always attracts a lot of attention. When owl-spotting, keep in mind these snow-white owls are a bird of the northern tundra and are not often around people. They are also diurnal hunters – meaning they hunt during the day – and are more easily spotted because they are out and about during the daylight hours. They might not seem startled by the presence of people, but that doesn’t mean you should get too close.

“Snowy owls are often here in Michigan due to limited food resources in their typical range and are likely hungry and searching for food,” said Erin Rowan, MiBirds program associate with DNR and Audubon Great Lakes. “Watch the owl from a distance, through binoculars or a spotting scope, so as not to disturb it.”

For many of Michigan’s native owl species, winter is breeding season. Great horned owls start their courtship in January, offering an amazing chance to listen for owls calling to one another on calm moonlit nights. While it might be tempting to use audio recordings to lure owls closer to you, please refrain, or play the recording only once or twice. Hearing another owl’s call can be very stressful for the owls because they may believe there is an intruder in their territory.

Above all, be respectful of these magnificent birds as you enjoy all the winter owl watching opportunities Michigan has to offer.

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.