Each winter, Michigan’s landscapes transition from bustling migration activity and bursts of color to leafless trees and frozen ground. This quiet season allows us to hear and see large feathered visitors from the north, such as snowy owls (pictured), boreal owls, great gray owls and northern hawk owls.

Surprisingly, these owls spend the winter in Michigan each year for its warmer, balmier weather, which is considerably warmer than the northern boreal forests and Arctic tundra they left behind!

January and February are the best time of year for an owling trip, and Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula is one of the best areas to view winter owls. The Shore to Shore Birding Trail can help guide you. Birding trails are driving routes with specific stops identified that offer bird viewing opportunities and can highlight natural and cultural features of local communities.

Learn how to identify these rare visitors (visit https://bit.ly/WinterOwl for help [case sensitive]), as well as our year-round resident owls including great horned, eastern screech and barred owls (pictured). These vocal flyers will start to hoot and holler at dusk and dawn in January and February to establish their nesting territories and find a mate.

If you manage to encounter one of Michigan’s wise birds, please follow these best practices:

Give owls space. View owls from a distance with binoculars or a scope.

Don’t lure owls with audio recordings. Hearing another owl’s call can be stressful.

Leave “live baiting” to the pros. Owls can learn to associate food with people and be drawn to dangerous areas like roads or airports.

Submit your eBird observation to scientists, but keep them hidden from the general public. A step-by-step guide is available at https://bit.ly/eBirdData (case sensitive).

Happy owling!

MI Birds is a public outreach and education program presented by Audubon Great Lakes and the Michigan DNR that works to build and bring together wildlife enthusiasts across the state to engage with and conserve Michigan’s birds, wildlife and public lands.

Questions? Contact Erin Rowan Ford at 313-820-0809.