a striking number
have been swooping onto shorelines
and flying over fields this winter: two foot
people don't flock to see any other animal
the way they do white ones: white wolves,
white whales, polar bears
Source: New York Times:
This form is
fibonacci: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 syllable count. Black
was used starting from the top of the article for first
stanza and from the bottom
up for the second stanza.
The text of
the article is below; the words selected for the
Fibonacci poem have been highlighted in yellow:
Revel in Unusual Spike in Snowy Owl Sightings
Patton/Albany Democrat-Herald, via Associated Press
Published: January 22, 2012
HELENA, Mont. —
From coast to coast
across the northern United States,
a striking number
of snowy owls
have been swooping
and flying over
fields this winter, delighting bird-watchers and
stirring speculation about the cause of the spike.
two-foot-tall birds, which live in the Arctic the
rest of the year, are known to fly south in large numbers
every few winters in what is known as an irruption. But this
year, the numbers are unusually high, said Denver Holt,
director of the Owl Research Institute in Charlo, Mont.
“There are so many across the country, everywhere, by the
thousands,” Mr. Holt said. “It’s unbelievable. They are
being seen from Boston, to the Great Lakes, the Ohio River
Valley, Kansas, Vancouver and Seattle.”
“One showed up at the airport in Hawaii, and they shot it,”
he added in astonishment. “It’s the first ever in Hawaii and
they shot it!”
The owl was killed on Thanksgiving by federal officials who
feared that the bird would interfere with landings and
Why so many more of the birds are showing up is largely a
mystery, Mr. Holt said. “We do know they had a really good
breeding year, and there was plenty of food last year,” he
said. Instead of no chicks, or one or two, a single nest
will produce five, six, seven or more fledglings in a good
breeding year, he said.
The owls’ Arctic diet is 90 percent lemmings, although the
birds, which are powerful hunters, also eat mice, voles,
ducks, hares and even fish when they migrate south. Some
ornithologists speculate that lemming populations crashed
recently after a boom, which could have led to the push
south, but researchers have not confirmed such a decline.
The irruption started in late fall and is expected to end by
March or April. In few places are people as excited as in
Kansas and Missouri, where snowy owls are exceedingly rare.
Ninety have shown up in Kansas this winter and 40 in
Missouri. Until this year, the highest number counted in
Missouri had been eight.
“It’s a massive movement,” said Mark Robbins, the
ornithology collection manager at the University of Kansas.
When five of the birds took up residency at Smithville Lake,
near Kansas City, Mo., it created an “owl jam,” Mr. Robbins
said. Thousands of people have driven there to see them, he
said, and hundreds of owl seekers have shown up at Clinton
Lake near Lawrence, Kan.
Unlike many owls,
variety are diurnal, or active during the day, which
accounts for some of
the hubbub. Their blinding
coloring, sometimes with brown barring, and piercing yellow
eyes are a magnet for birders and nonbirders alike.
Adding to the allure for children, the owls are of the same
species as Hedwig, the faithful companion of the fictional
wizard Harry Potter, which perished defending him in the
final book of the series.
Geoff LeBaron, director of the Audubon Society’s Christmas
bird count, said that it was hard to estimate how many snowy
owls flew south in this irruption because the latest data
has not been tallied, but that the overall number was
probably a few thousand. Despite the surge, the society
says, snowy owls are thought to have been in decline since
There is far more data on the scope of this migration than
in years past, thanks to a citizen science project based at
Cornell called eBird, which is run by the Cornell Lab of
Ornithology and the Audubon Society. Bird-watchers around
the country call in sightings, which are plotted on a map
that shows precisely where the birds are wintering.
“A lot of people who have never seen one before have rushed
out and seen multiples,” said Marshall Iliff, an
ornithologist at Cornell and the project’s leader. “And
photographers are having a field day.”
Additional hot spots include the mouth of the Columbia River
in Washington State, with 10 to 13 birds; 20 at Lake Andes
National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota, and 30 in Boundary
Bay, near Vancouver in British Columbia.
The owls are even showing up in urban and suburban areas,
along highways, on signs and fence posts, and in other
places where people can more easily spot them. It has been a
good snowy owl year at Logan Airport in Boston, too. Because
the airfield looks like tundra, snowy owls tend to flock
there, and they must be trapped and removed.
“We’ve removed 21 so far this year, and the average is six,”
said Norman Smith, who works for the Massachusetts Audubon
Society and traps the birds. The most ever trapped was 43 in
1986, Mr. Smith said, “but the year’s not over.”
Mr. Holt, who has journeyed to the Arctic tundra to study
snowy owls and their food and nesting habits for the last 20
years and is one of world’s leading experts on the bird,
said he had seen no evidence that the owls, most of them
young, are stressed. “They are not all here starving to
death,” he said. “The birds appear to be in good physical
But Mr. Robbins said he had seen some evidence to the
contrary. Of five dead birds he examined — three hit by
cars, one hit by a train and one that was electrocuted —
there was “no question” that “some of these birds are
starving to death,” he said, probably because they have been
unable to find enough food.
Whatever the causes of the irruption, owl watchers are
making the most of what they suspect may be a unique
Mr. Holt suggests that the draw of the snowy owls may be
partly a fascination with the birds’ coloring. “White
whales, white buffalo — there is something about
white plumage that signifies innocence or purity,” he said.
“People don’t flock
to see any other animal the way they do white ones.”
A version of this article appeared in print on January 23,
2012, on page A11 of the New York edition with the headline:
Bird-Watchers Revel in Unusual Spike in Snowy Owl Sightings.
New York Times: 01-23-2012