2014-01-31. A Bird Flies South, and It’s News.

posted Feb 4, 2014, 11:43 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: DUXBURY, Mass. — The snowy owl ... had been where no bird should safely be — Logan International Airport in Boston.... Not only is the Boston area seeing the largest number of snowy owls ever recorded, they are popping up in territory far from their usual habitat near the Arctic Circle.  ...No one is sure why so many snowies are showing up in so many places — whether it can be attributed to more food in their Arctic habitats than usual, or climate change at the top of the world. “Think about the canary in the coal mine,” said Henry Tepper, the president of Mass Audubon, “you think about the snowy owl in the Arctic.” ...Ornithologists and bird watchers are not sure why the birds have come so far and in such great numbers this year. ...Climate change, which has been thawing Arctic ice so actively that new shipping routes are opening in the far north, could have disrupted the habitat, Professor [Kevin J.] McGowan [an ornithologist at Cornell] speculated. “That has to be one of the most vulnerable ecosystems on the planet. That’s going to be one of the first places that falls apart when there is warming in the atmosphere,” he said. This may have driven more of them south instead of north. A big shift in bird movement one year might just be a freakish event, he said, or potentially “it’s the beginning of a pattern.”... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/01/us/influx-of-snowy-owls-thrills-and-baffles-birders.html. John Schwartz, The New York Times.