DEC gives tips to safely watch winter raptors


ALBANY — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is asking that anyone observing birds and other wildlife do so in a manner that is legal, safe and does not harm wildlife. Tips for safe observation of birds is available at

“Winter is a great time to get out and watch birds, but it is also a crucial period of survival for them,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said.

Winter provides a rare opportunity to view snowy owls, short-eared owls, rough-legged hawks and other birds of prey. These birds, which are known as winter raptors, spend much of the year in the Canadian tundra breeding, raising young and hunting. They migrate to upstate New York in the winter, and may easily be seen roosting or soaring in or near open fields.

Raptor populations are lower during the winter and are harder to locate under the snow. They need more energy to stay warm. These birds roost, or rest, for long periods of time to conserve their energy.

“We are fortunate to have rare and beautiful birds, including the vulnerable Snowy Owl, spending time in New York during the winter. We hope that birders and photographers will do their part to ensure the safety and success of these species,” Audubon New York Bird Conservation Director Jillian Liner said.

Photography tips

Most birders recognize winter raptors’ needs and observe them from a distance. Sometimes they wish to observe and photograph these birds up close, so they approach them and flush them from their arming place and cause them to fly.

If this happens several times birds can lose energy reserves. This ca impact their ability to return to the Canadian tundra in the spring to breed and sometimes results in death.

“Put the birds first and give them space,” Liner said. “Flushing a bird from its perch causes them to lose energy which can have detrimental consequences. If you are patient you will get the look and the photo you are hoping for.”

No trespassing

The DEC has received numerous complaints of people trespassing on private or congregating unsafely on roads to observe winter raptors. The first practice is illegal and the second is dangerous.

Do not enter private property without permission of the landowner. Park cars well to the side of the road, completely out of travel lanes. Stay off the road while observing birds and pay attention to traffic, not birds, when crossing roads.


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