They also spend a lot of time on the ground, even nesting there. Whether on the tundra or in the Midwest, snowy owls prefer treeless places and wide-open spaces, often sitting in bare corn fields, beaches or even airports.
Scientists are not sure exactly what is driving the influx of snowies this year. These invasions are thought to occur because of variations in cyclical prey and predator populations in the Arctic. While prey/food scarcity is often cited as a driving force to the snowy owl southern migration, many biologists are now suggesting that a highly productive breeding season this past summer in the Arctic (due to an abundance of lemmings, the snowies’ primary food source in the summer) may be the reason for the large numbers of these owls throughout the U.S., as evident by the high proportion of immature (first-winter) birds.
Another possible factor is the ever changing climate in the Arctic. With significant losses in sea ice, major changes in snowfall and rising temperatures, these owls are facing changes to their environment and must adapt.