Uncommon Visitor: A Snowy Owl Captivates Birdwatchers in Washington
Climate change has had more drastic impacts on the Arctic species than anywhere else on the planet and these sightings may not be so uncommon in the future
The American capital is thrilled to have an uncommon visitor. Reportedly, a snowy owl has been touring iconic buildings of Washington D.C. and is captivating birdwatchers who have managed to get a rare glimpse of the magnificent Arctic bird.
Far from its summer breeding grounds in Canada, the snowy owl was first spotted on January 3, the day a winter storm brought about eight inches of snow to the capital city. Since then, the beautiful bird has been seen in the evenings flying over Washington’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, landing on Union Station, the National Postal Museum, many Senate buildings, and Capitol Police headquarters.
The football-sized bird with bright yellow eyes had about three dozen people in thick coats lined up last week as it sat on the stone head of Archimedes, which is carved above the train station gateway. It appears that the nocturnal hunter has been targeting the city’s bounteous downtown rat population. The pretty little bird seems to be touring around the city, fascinated by all things humans.
According to Scott Weidensaul, a researcher at nonprofit Project SNOWStorm that tracks snowy owl movements, a fluctuating number of owls migrate south from the Arctic during winters. He also added that due to a variety of factors, the number of surviving owl chicks increases every three to five years. These unusual occurrences or “irruption” years encourage them to wander off farther than their usual range.
Snowy owls are coming from a part of the world where they see almost nothing human, from completely treeless open Arctic tundra…In irruption years, they tend to go farther south than they usually would. A lot of the snowy owls we’re seeing now in the East and Upper Midwest are young birds, on their first migration.
He said that most winters, North American snowy owls stay above the Great Lakes or Cape Cod area. But this season, snowy owls have been reported in Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland.
Since its first sighting, the Capitol Hill owl has attracted a few dozen birdwatchers each night hoping to catch a glimpse of the same owl species as Harry Potter’s pet owl Hedwig.
Here are some of the mesmerizing pictures of the snowy owl perched around the iconic landmarks in Washington.
Via: AP News