March Madness: Snowy Owl Relocation Program Hits Triple Digits Earlier This Month As 100th Raptor, “Century,” Is Released

Release Date:
March 24, 2014

LINCOLN, MA—When Mass Audubon’s Norman Smith released a snowy owl earlier this month, it was literally one for the record books.

The large, white raptor, named “Century” for its milestone status, was the 100th of its species trapped at Logan International Airport in Boston since late last fall, when the 2013-2014 snowy owl irruption began. The previous greatest number captured was only about half that total; in fact, during the 2012-13 season, a mere eight “snowies” were trapped at Logan, each later released on South Shore or North Shore beaches.

“Century” was released Saturday, March 15, at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Newburyport, before a rapt crowd of birders and other well-wishers. Also on hand were officials from the Refuge and from Massport, which oversees Logan.

Although the release of “Century” represented a landmark moment, Smith noted that 36 additional owls had been captured in other Massachusetts locations this season—a year when thousands have descended from their Arctic breeding grounds to as far south as Florida and the Caribbean.

“To see a snowy owl, a rare visitor from the far north, is a captivating experience for people, one that will be remembered for a lifetime,” said Smith, who manages Mass Audubon’s Snowy Owl Project and is director of the conservation organization’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton.

Smith noted that those who would like to track “Century” along the coast and on its journey back to the Arctic can visit the website of Project SNOWstorm, which monitors snowy owls and their movements.

“This winter has given birders and nonbirders alike one of the best opportunities ever to see one or more of these magnificent creatures,” he added. “And the season is not over yet. Who knows what the final number will be!”

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Mass Audubon protects 36,500 acres of land throughout Massachusetts, saving birds and other wildlife, and making nature accessible to all. As Massachusetts’ largest nature conservation nonprofit, we welcome more than a half million visitors a year to our wildlife sanctuaries and 20 nature centers. From inspiring hilltop views to breathtaking coastal landscapes, serene woods, and working farms, we believe in protecting our state’s natural treasures for wildlife and for all people—a vision shared in 1896 by our founders, two extraordinary Boston women. Today, Mass Audubon is a nationally recognized environmental education leader, offering thousands of camp, school, and adult programs that get over 225,000 kids and adults outdoors every year. With more than 125,000 members and supporters, we advocate on Beacon Hill and beyond, and conduct conservation research to preserve the natural heritage of our beautiful state for today’s and future generations. We welcome you to explore a nearby sanctuary, find inspiration, and get involved. Learn how at massaudubon.org.