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In near-record breaking numbers this winter, snowy owls are moving into Iowa.

Wildlife biologists call the phenomenon a “winter irruption” with numerous sightings of the large white bird in Iowa this winter. The uptick in sightings may be due in part to a low lemming population in the tundra, which the owls feed on, or it may be due to the little amounts of snow Iowa had received until recently making it easier to spot the bird. According to wildlife biologists there are usually five to 10 snowy owl sightings in Iowa, but during an irruption year that can drastically increase, like in the winter of 2011-12 when there were more than 150 sightings. There have been over 100 sightings of snowy owls in Iowa so far this year.

If you see an owl, email Stephen Dinsmore, professor of natural resource ecology and management at Iowa State University at to share the specific location. If possible, include a picture, which may be able to reveal the age and sex of the owl. This will help document the extent of this year’s irruption.