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Winging it at Albany airport

An uptick in snowy owl sightings thrills local bird enthusiasts

This snowy was spotted recently at the Albany International Airport. There has been an uptick in sightings in the Capital District this year.

This snowy was spotted recently at the Albany International Airport. There has been an uptick in sightings in the Capital District this year.

— Travelers of all kinds take flight from the Albany Airport, but this winter, local birders have spotted a different kind of traveler winging it around the runways.

Snowy owls have landed at the airport and according to local bird club members, the creatures have been seen there for more than a month. Sightings throughout the greater Capital District are also said to be higher than average this year.

“We haven’t talked about anything else the last few weeks,” said Jory Langer, a Delmar resident and president of the Hudson Mohawk Bird Club. “I think there have been sightings in about 15 different locations, which is great. They’re beautiful birds.”

This isn’t the snowy owl’s first foray into the Capital District.

Langer said sightings happen about every four years because winter irruptions, or a sudden upsurge in population, bring the birds from the Arctic Circle into southern Canada and northern United States. However, this year’s irruption has been longer than expected, and the birds have reportedly flown as far south as Florida and to other warmer climates like Hawaii and Bermuda.

“All of their theories why have to do with food,” said Langer. “Either there is no food, or at one point there was too much food, which led to the hatching of more owls. Now there is a greater competition for food and they are flying south.”

Typically the younger, more inexperienced birds are the ones who fly the farthest south, according to Langer.

Most of the Albany International Airport sightings have been at Sicker Road, on the north side of the airport looking east. There are thought to be at least three different birds at the site. Other snowy owls in the area have been spotted near Troy, East Greenbush and Fort Edward.

Richard Guthrie, a member of the club, said airports are a favorite spot for owls because of the wide expanse of land and fields that typically surround the runways. They also like golf courses and beach areas.

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