A beautiful snowy owl was spotted in Central Park, NYC, on Wednesday 27th, marking the first time the species has been seen in the park since 1890. The white and brown-speckled bird drew quite the audience as it made friends with an American Crow, gestured angrily to a nearby Cooper’s hawk, and generally enjoyed the attention it was receiving.
Made famous for being Harry Potter’s trusty mail-bringing pal, Hedwig, snowy owls are not frequent visitors around these parts, being native to the northernmost regions of the world. However, during different seasons they are extremely nomadic and regularly travel great distances. They can regularly be seen near Queens, basking in the sand dunes of Rockaway Beach, but sightings in Manhattan haven’t been reported for over a century. With brilliant white feathers to perfectly camouflage in the snowy landscapes, the owls make an impressive spectacle for onlookers.
Interestingly, snowy owls differ from most other owl species, as they hunt in the day and sleep overnight for much of the year. They feed off lemmings, voles, and other small rodents, and are extremely hard to spot for even the most avid birdwatcher. It is usually recommended to bring long-range binoculars to get a glimpse of a snowy owl, requiring intense patience. A snowy owl strutting its stuff in the middle of Central Park is therefore quite the experience.
'Yesterday's snow and cold to our north likely encouraged this snowy owl to fly south in search of better hunting conditions,' the Manhattan Bird Alert account posted on Twitter.
'These owls like flat lands and beaches, so the Central Park North Meadow, flat and with sand-filled fields, might have appealed.'
The bird appeared to have quite the personality, interacting with lots of the Central Park bird residents. Completely unfazed by the loud calling of nearby crows and the nearly 100 people gathering around, it became a solo show as the owl demonstrated it wasn’t going anywhere.
It is important to note that in case of snowy owl sightings, ensure you keep a safe distance – they are shy birds and all wildlife should be enjoyed from a decent distance. Many Twitter users took to commending the great work done by the park rangers, who kept the crowds from disturbing the owl.
Although not confirmed, the bird appears to be female, owing to the extensive brown markings and more banding across the tail.
Destined for a quieter life, the owl has not been seen since – however, swiftly after becoming famous, the bird has its own Twitter account!