Snowy Owls have recently been observed in Cheboygan, St. Ignace and on the Mackinac Bridge. It is still early December, but these beautiful arctic visitors are starting to appear throughout the Midwest in good numbers. During the past several winters snowy owls have been frequent visitors to Mackinaw City, and there should be prime opportunities to see them here this winter.
Local places to watch for Snowy Owls include open areas along the Mackinaw City shoreline, light poles, tops of buildings and out on the ice once it forms in the Straits. If you are lucky enough to see a Snowy Owl, don’t get too close and it may just stay put for others to enjoy. If you want to see a map of where some Snowy Owls have been seen locally, visit https://ebird.org/map/snoowl1. If you want to learn more about the migration of owls and other raptors in the area, the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch is a great resource.
In early December 2017, a Snowy Owl was observed sitting at the base of the cannon located near the entrance of the Colonial Michilimackinac parking lot. It had been there for most of the day and cars entering the lot were passing within a few feet of it. Concern grew that it may have been injured, perhaps by a passing vehicle on the Mackinac Bridge which crosses over the parking lot.
Mackinac State Historic Parks Curator of Natural History Jeff Dykehouse, who has a state and federal bird banding permit, captured the owl to see if it was injured. It had no obvious injuries, so an aluminum numbered band was put on its leg. According to the Bird Banding Lab with the U.S. Geological Survey, bird banding is a universal and indispensable technique for studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds. Over 1.2 million birds are banded, and more than 87,000 encounters with banded birds are reported annually.
According to Dykehouse, the owl was most likely an immature bird, as is the case with most snowy owls in this area at this time of year. After the owl was shown to some of the other park staff members, it was released inside Colonial Michilimackinac and eventually flew up to the roof of one of the fort’s buildings.