Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snowy Owl

This winter has seen an influx of one of the largest and most beautiful North American owls into the lower 48. Fans of Harry Potter are familiar with the Snowy owl, but most people have never seen one in the wild. Snowies are residents of the Arctic tundra where they feed largely on lemmings, but they move southward in winter and sometimes travel all the way to the U.S.

This year there's been a large-scale movement of these owls into the states and several have turned up in Pennsylvania. Unlike most owls, which are nocturnal, snowy owls are diurnal — they're active both day and night which makes them easy to see if one is in the area.

Snowy Owl

A Snowy was found recently near Shippensburg which isn't far from where I live so I went this afternoon to see it. It was a gorgeous bird, large and almost completely white. Younger owls have dark edges to their feathers giving a barred appearance, but older Snowies, especially older males, are almost completely white.

There's a very interesting story on this year's irruption of these birds which can be read here.