Will Snowy Owls and Ospreys Come to Battle?

Mar 12, 2014

No one really knows what the Snowy Owls are going to do next: when are they going to leave, are they going to nest here, will they be back? It is assumed most will start making their way north, but some may very well take a leisurely route back, which will bring them into contact with many species that they have never encountered and conversely have never encountered them. With ospreys on the move out of South America, the first males arriving here about a week from now, the potential for conflict is very real.

Ospreys and owls really don’t like each other. This feud goes to their very DNA, and they don’t need to be told they dislike each other - it is more than that. From the moment they break out of their eggs, ospreys and owls are enemies. Great Horned Owls, the first bird to nest in North America each year, often courting and laying eggs in January and February, often use osprey nests and poles for their own. When ospreys return in the spring battles will erupt and often owls and ospreys end up dead. This is very serious business for both species.

In fact, in the past few years, several ospreys fitted with satellite transmitters have been killed by Great Horned Owls. So with all the Snowy Owls around, often using osprey nest poles for a perch or hunting platform, it seems likely that some fireworks between these two species in the near future is inevitable.  I hope that there are only a few incidents or skirmishes between these 2 charismatic species and that it doesn’t break out into a war. Hopefully the ospreys will  exercise their territorial imperative while reclaiming their nest site and drive the visiting owls from their poles with a minimum of resistance from the young but fierce owls!

Many folks are going to try to keep a close eye on what is going on. Keep a digital camera handy if you have one and let’s see what happens in the region over the next month.