Hawk Mountain leads groundbreaking global assessment on snowy owls

Posted on December 05, 2023 in Science

Snowy owl landing on snow-covered ground

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary recently submitted a manuscript, “Status assessment and conservation priorities for a circumpolar raptor: the snowy owl” to the journal Bird Conservation International. The work, under direction of Senior Biologist Dr. Rebecca McCabe and Senior Scientist and Graduate Study Director Dr. JF Therrien not only coalesces the work of 39 co-authors, but also sets a new standard for assessments on virtually all raptor species in the future.

“Very few species of raptors have ever been analyzed so thoroughly, and this is the first time such a global assessment has been completed on the snowy owl,” explain Dr. Therrien, a recognized arctic raptor expert.

“The paper represents virtually everything that is known about snowy owls including updated population trends and draws upon the work of the very top researchers worldwide,” he adds.

The scientific paper is slated for publication in early 2024 and will become the benchmark upon which any study will reference.

“I’m incredibly proud of this amazing work and Hawk Mountain’s leadership role,” Dr. Therrien says.

“Once again, Sanctuary science is leading the charge in raptor conservation and demonstrates it is a driving force behind this herculean scientific lift.”

The iconic “Harry Potter” owl is particularly challenging to assess due to its nomadic nature and incredible ability to travel more than 2,500 miles in spring as it searches for a place to nest that also has an abundance of food. Using available data collected from ongoing and historic research, which draws upon telemetry tracking, genetic studies, long-term breeding bird data, and more suggests the current global population ranges between 14,000 and 28,000 adults.