Sunday, December 04, 2011

Waunakee Snowy Owl

Shortly after I finished birding at Pheasant Branch Conservancy this morning, my co-worker Tom Kuenzli called me with some interesting bird news. Apparently, someone spotted a Snowy Owl sitting right up along side of a building in the Waunakee Business Park. They were concerned about the bird’s condition and either called Waunakee Police or the Dane County Sheriff. Renee, Tom’s girlfriend and Dane County Animal Services officer, was called to the scene to assess the situation. When she approached the owl, preparing to capture it, she saw that it was merely guarding a freshly killed rat. The owl gave up its prey and flew across the parking lot to a patch of grass.

Renee had already left by the time I arrived and the owl had returned to the kill site where a few non-birders were watching it. I was told that the owl had eaten something, presumably the rat it was guarding. Moments later, the owl flew back to the patch of grass near the parking lot where I was able to get a few digiscoped photographs of it. Two American Crows flew in and began harassing the owl causing it to flee across the street where it perched on the roof of a building. The taunting crows were unrelenting and the owl took off behind the building. Eventually, I was able to relocate the snowy, which was hunkered down in tall grass about 30 yards from the road. A man from one of the nearby buildings wearing binoculars came down to look at the owl and told me it has been at this location since Friday.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Dec 4, 2011 8:00 AM - 10:30 AM
36 species

Canada Goose
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Northern Shrike
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Rusty Blackbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Snowy Owl © 2011 Mike McDowell


  1. Gorgeous photos Mike!!

  2. Holy smokes. I hope this youngun' makes it. I feel sorry for snowies who wind up around buildings and lots of people, scaring them from their meals. Great shots!

  3. birds don't get anymore gorgeous than that! nice pics...

  4. Julie,

    By posting this owl, I'm hoping birders who go to see it will gently advise non-birders who may be there not to go near it. There's actually a very large field with tall grass adjacent to the business park, so it's not the worst situation for it.


  5. I heard on WPR Friday that there were some snowy owls in the state, but i'm surprised they're that far south. COOL!

  6. Some are as far south as Kansas right now!

    Mike M.

  7. Wow, what a thrill to see a beauty like this. Great photographs Mike (as usual).

  8. Something tells me that we will be seeing a lot more excellent images of Snowy Owls this winter.