From Massachusetts to Montana, Missouri to Michigan, bird enthusiasts are reporting sightings of the snowy owl, which breeds in the Arctic, Reuters
"What we're seeing now - it's unbelievable," Denver Holt, head of the Owl Research Institute in Montana, told the news outlet. "This is the most significant wildlife event in decades."
Snowy owls, which are about 2 feet tall and have a wingspan of 5 feet, fly south from their breeding grounds each winter, but the distance and number of birds is what makes this year's migration particularly special. These periodic, large-scale southern migrations are known as irruptions, the news outlet reports.
The event is likely connected to the availability of lemmings, a rodent that makes up 90 percent of the owl's diet during the breeding season. A particularly plentiful supply of lemmings last season led to a population boom among the owls, experts speculate.USA Today
reports that the birds are under federal protection, which aims to help animals
by preventing people from possessing them without a special permit.