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Snowy owls make "unbelievable" migration from Arctic to U.S.

From Massachusetts to Montana, Missouri to Michigan, bird enthusiasts are reporting sightings of the snowy owl, which breeds in the Arctic, Reuters reports.

"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. 
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