A small town in the eastern Upper Peninsula has new monkiker, named for the distinctive white Arctic owl that appears in greater numbers there each year than in other parts of Michigan. Rudyard, Michigan, located in Chippewa County, is now “The Snowy Owl Capital of Michigan”
A recent story in the Sault News (bit.ly/3kYPNY1) reports that “As of Jan. 20, Rudyard Township in the Eastern Upper Peninsula is officially recognized as the Snowy Owl capital of the state.”
That official recognition came from the Michigan House of Representatives which last September adopted HR 346, a House Resolution declaring support for Rudyard to be known as the Snowy Owl Capital of Michigan.
“Whereas, Snowy owls arrive in November and stay until March or April and the official Annual Audubon National Christmas Bird Count of seventeen snowy owls in 2017, twenty-nine in 2018, thirteen in 2019, three in 2020 and twenty-three in 2021 shows the Rudyard area has a consistent winter population of snowy owls. The 2018 count of twenty-nine snowy owls, was the highest one-day snowy owl numbers in both Michigan and the United States; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the members of this legislative body declare Rudyard as the Snowy Owl Capital of Michigan. We commend all of the residents of Michigan who enjoy bird viewing and bird photography;…” the final portion of the resolution reads.
Snowy Owls are identified by their distinct white plumage, which can also be mottled with brown spots. They are large owls with yellow eyes that breed north of the Arctic Circle in summer and then migrate southward during the winter. Michigan is the southern edge of their winter range. They feed on small mammals and birds and are agile flyers which prefer wide open spaces.
“Snowy Owls mainly eat small mammals, particularly lemmings, which at times on the tundra may be all these birds eat. Sometimes they’ll switch to ptarmigan and waterfowl. Snowy Owls are also one of the most agile owls, able to catch small birds on the fly. On both their breeding and wintering grounds, their diet can range widely to include rodents, rabbits, hares, squirrels, weasels, wading birds, seabirds, ducks, grebes, and geese,” the Cornell Labratory of Ornitholgy reports on its All About Birds website (bit.ly/3RmVhHP).
The visually-striking owl is considered a “vulnerable” species whose numbers have declined by 50 percent over the last 50 years, according to the State of the Birds 2022 report by the North American Bird Conservation Initiatve (NABCI) a cooperative effort by governmental agencies, private organizations and others. The report details the findings for Snowy Owls and numerous other North American bird species. To learn more about those findings see https://www.stateofthebirds.org/2022/