SPECIAL COVERAGE: 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500

Many snowy owls expected to flock into Indiana

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(File photo courtesy of Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana and other Midwestern states are seeing an influx of snowy owls, an all-white raptor native to the Arctic that’s rarely seen south of Lake Michigan, according to wildlife officials.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources non-game bird biologist Allisyn Gillet said the striking owls are migrating south from northern Canada during what’s called an irruption, which the owls cycle through every four to five years.

“We are definitely looking at an irruption. They are here. It’s unequivocal,” said Caleb Putnam, Michigan bird conservation coordinator for the Audubon Great Lakes and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Researchers believe this year’s irruption could be larger than the last one, seen in the winter of 2013-14.

“The important thing to remember is irruptions have a real unpredictability about them,” Putnam said. “They happen differently every time.”

During the 2013-14 irruption owls came down to the U.S. East Coast and the Great Lakes, among other spots. Early patterns indicate that this year’s trend could be centered more on the Great Lakes, with fewer showing up on the East Coast.

Indiana Audubon executive director Brad Bumgardner agreed that the numbers are unusual.

“But we are on pace with the 2013 year, which was already so unprecedented — Hoosiers are getting a chance to see Harry Potter’s owl,” Bumgardner said.

Scientists and researchers said that while they encourage people to see the birds, they advise keeping a minimum of 100 yards (90 meters) away from them.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.