Snowy owls are frequently spotted in Massachusetts in the winter.
Since these birds live in the flat, frozen tundra of the arctic circle, the frozen salt marshes, sand dunes and agricultural fields of the Massachusetts coastline are a very natural and inviting environment for them.
Why Do Snowy Owls Migrate South?
When their natural food source, lemmings, are scarce in the Arctic circle or there is a severe snow and ice cover in their usual wintering areas that makes it difficult for them to hunt, the young juvenile snowy owls tend to fly south in search of food and a more hospitable place to spend the winter.
Where Do Snowy Owls Migrate To?
When snowy owls migrate south, they migrate to southeastern Canada, the upper Great Lake states and New England.
When To See Snowy Owls in Massachusetts:
Snowy owls tend to arrive in Massachusetts in November and then migrate back north around early April when the snow melts and the temperatures rise.
Unlike other owls, snowy owls are both nocturnal and diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and night, so you have a good chance of spotting them during the daytime.
These birds enjoy sitting in wide-open areas, such as salt marshes, fields and beach dunes, where they often perch close to or on the ground.
If there is snow cover on the ground it can be difficult to spot them because they blend in so well with the environment.
If you think you see a snowy owl in the distance, be patient and watch it closely for signs of movement such as the turning of its head or its feathers being ruffled by the wind.
Where To See Snowy Owls in Massachusetts:
Popular sighting areas for snowy owls include:
Crane Beach in Ipswich
Salisbury Beach State Reservation in Salisbury
Parker River Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Newburyport
Horseneck Beach State Reservation in Westport
East Beach in New Bedford
Madaket Beach in Nantucket
Nauset Beach in Orleans
Duxbury Beach in Duxbury
If you would like to stay updated on the most recent sightings, you can check out the eBird.com website for a list of recent snowy owl sightings or join a community Facebook group for one of the towns listed above.
How To Safely Observe Snowy Owls:
When observing snowy owls in the wild, try to stay at least 150 feet away, which is about half the length of a football field.
Use a zoom lens, binoculars or a spotting scope to give wildlife plenty of space.
When viewing a snowy owl with a group of people, view the bird from one location and never surround or attempt to approach it.
Never feed snowy owls or other types of wildlife. Feeding wildlife is dangerous for both wildlife and people.
Watch the bird for signs of distress. If the bird becomes alert, opens its eyes wide and extends its neck, it means it has been disturbed from its roosting mode and you should back off immediately.
Are Snowy Owls Endangered?
Snowy owls are not endangered but they are considered a vulnerable species because there are only 30,000 of them left in North America and only 200,000 of them left in the world.
Due to the fact that the snowy owls that migrate to Massachusetts tend to be young and inexperienced they face many challenges.
These birds tend to be novice hunters and have yet to learn how to avoid predators, how to prevent getting injured, accidentally poisoned, hunted or otherwise disturbed by people so it’s important to give them space when you see them and try not to stress them out.
“Tracking Snowy Owls.” Project Snow Storm, projectsnowstorm.org/tracking-snowy-owls/
“Viewing Snowy Owls.” Mass Audobon, massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/blue-hills-trailside-museum/our-work/snowy-owl-project/viewing-snowy-owls
“Massachusetts United States” eBird,com, ebird.org/region/US-MA?yr=all&m=
“Snowy Owl at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts.” U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, fws.gov/media/snowy-owl-parker-river-national-wildlife-refuge-massachusetts
“Snowy Owls on Cape Cod.” Wicked Local, 7 Dec. 2021, wickedlocal.com/story/provincetown-banner/2021/12/07/snowy-owls-cape-cod/8871804002/
Lichman, Elsa. “Nature in the City: The magnificent, mysterious snowy owl.”
Wicked Local, 1 Feb. 2022, wickedlocal.com/story/waltham-news-tribune/2022/02/01/nature-city-magnificent-mysterious-snowy-owl/9258507002/