Photo of the Week:

Posted on January 07, 2022 in Photos

Snowy Owl

Photo by: Ron Stella

Snowy Owl: STL works with the USDA to trap birds of prey on the airfield and safely relocate them away from the airport. This practice helps avoid birdstrike with a plane.

Hawks, owls and falcons (raptors) are the airports most hazardous perennial strike issue and are among the most hazardous species to aviation nationwide. Average cost of a damaging strike for a Red-tailed Hawk is more than $150,000 dollars, and it is important to note that the bird always loses an encounter with an aircraft. Depending upon the season, STL has various live-traps targeting raptors throughout the airfield. Each year, USDA relocates more than 200 from STL. 

The Snowy Owl is rare to find at STL. They rarely migrate this far south into the country during winter, except during “irruption” years, which we are experiencing in many parts of the country this year. They are often seen at airports in these situations, likely because the landscape is more familiar to their home than the surrounding landscape.

This isn’t the first time a Snowy Owl has been encountered at STL, though it is the first time one has been captured and relocated. This individual, along with other captured birds, are relocated more than an hour west to suitable habitat.  Most of the birds are banded before release so they can be identified in the future if caught again elsewhere, providing information on lifespan and movements. STL has recaptured hawks that had been caught and relocated originally more than 10 years prior.