Rare Owl Seen Hanging Out at Middleton Brewery; DNR Explains Why

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MTT News Desk's picture
A great grey owl.

While many Middletonians suspected the city's newest resident had moved here for the great beer produced at Capital Brewery, there might be another reason for all the great grey owl sightings on Terrace Avenue.

This year’s long winter is having an impact on owls in Wisconsin, including three species of rare owls that have come down from the boreal forest north of the U.S. border.

According to a statement issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, every few years small rodent populations crash. The decline forces owls to move south in search of food. 

That's exactly what happened this year and because of it, Wisconsin is becoming a temporary home to three species not normally seen here: the northern hawk owl, the great grey owl and the boreal owl.

To see these three species in the state is rare, yet they’ve been spotted in Door, Ashland, Douglas and as far south as Racine and Kenosha Counties.  A great grey owl has attracted visitors from all over to Capital Brewery, on Terrace Avenue in downtown Middleton for the past week.

“Unfortunately, long winters and early springs, coupled with unfamiliar landscapes, increased roads and other risk factors, have taken a toll on some of these rare visitors,” explained Ryan Brady, natural resources research scientist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Great grey owls and northern hawk owls are prone to vehicle collisions as they hunt over roadside ditches.  Boreal owls may begin hunting by daylight to find food, and may turn to backyard bird feeding stations in hopes of finding mice attracted to spilled seed.”

The DNR is interested in learning more about where these birds are seen, regardless of whether they are alive.  Should you see a great grey, northern hawk, or boreal owl, you are encouraged to fill out a rare bird sighting form (http://wsobirds.org/?page_id=3208) on the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology’s website. 

Please note the species name, location, date, and any other information you can provide about the sighting.  The information will be used to better track the movement of these birds and will help biologists better understand ways that Wisconsin can be a good “host” to these special visitors.


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