The Snowy Owl

THE STORY OF SNOWY WHITE

“We have an invasion on our hands- but don’t grab your pitchforks just yet, because these newcomers are more fluffy than formidable (though their lemming prey would almost certainly disagree)”.

The Snowy Owl at home in Northern Quebec.

The Snowy Owl at home in Northern Quebec.

On a brisk January day in 2014, a small group of passersby gathered across the street from the Grand Trunk Railroad Building on the corner of Commercial and India Street in Portland, Maine. Perched in a 3rd floor window of the abandoned building stood the ghostlike figure of a snowy owl.  Snowy White, a male snow owl with bountiful white plumage, found himself trapped inside the building. How Snowy got there, nobody knew. After someone reported seeing the rare owl, the fire department, police and Maine Audubon Society pondered how they would get Snowy White out safely and without traumatizing him. The best and simplest suggestion was to simply open the window. But Snowy White refused to leave.

HE DID NOT GIVE A “HOOT”.

Snowy White could not remain in the abandoned building. He was out of his natural habitat and would eventually need to return to the Arctic. Why would this freedom loving rarity want to remain in an old building? Snowy owls usually migrate south to North America because they are hungry. Snowy White was healthy looking, if not even a bit plump. He had surely found a food source. Rather than feeding on lemmings as snowy owls do when in the Arctic tundra, Snowy White was feasting on pigeons. Pigeons were in great abundance, dead and alive, inside that building. So, why would an owl that had been struggling with near starvation want to leave?

One of the passerbies’s happened to be a falconer who was familiar with the rescue of wild birds. It was he who single-handedly saved the day. Climbing up three flights of stairs, he threw his jacket over Snowy White thus capturing him. Now it was time to transport Snowy White to a safe place.

OFF TO AVIAN HAVEN

Located in Freedom, Maine, Avian Haven is a wild bird rehabilitation center. Snowy White would remain there until it was determined that he was healthy enough to be set free into the wild. The managers of Avian Haven hoped to keep Snowy White in Freedom until they could connect him with Project SNOWstorm which uses various techniques to track owls and study their behavior, migratory movement and hunting habits. The research program hopes to gain insight into the invasion of snowy owls into the United States.

Snowy White was released back into the wild just a few days later. *

A CHILDREN’S BOOK WAS WRITTEN ABOUT THE SNOWY OWL RESCUE  BY MAINE AUTHORS, MELISSA KIM AND JADA FITCH.

STRANGE INVASIONS

Snowy White is not the only snowy owl who finds itself in unfamiliar places. Every few years, snowy owls appear in abundant numbers in North America. Sighting of these majestic birds become common, particularly in open areas such as beaches, fields and even along railroad tracks and air fields. Snowy owls prefer open spaces. No one knows for certain why they migrate to the United States on a seeming cycle of every couple of years but some speculate that it has to do with the unavailability of lemmings (small rodents) that are their native food source in their native Arctic tundra. . The winter of 2014 appeared to be one of those invasions of the snowy white in Canada and the northern United States. It was called an “irruption”

FUN FACTS ABOUT SNOWY OWLS

  • Snowy owls are nomads. Denizens of the Arctic, they migrate to the Northern United States and Canada in the winter, sometimes in the fall.
  • Snowy owls are mostly white but often have sparse brown bars or spots. Male snowy owls turn whiter with age whereas female snowy owls do not.
  •  Their “footwear” is fashioned for the frozen spaces of the Artic with their claws and feet covered in soft feathers.
  • The snowy owl has yellow or amber colored eyes.
  • With bills that are short, pointed sharply and strong, the Snowy owl in among North America’s largest owl species. Snowy owls can weigh up to around 6 ½ pounds with a wing span of up to about 4.8 feet.
  • When in the Arctic, their diet is almost entirely lemmings (small rodents) that travel in large groups during migration.
  • Hedwig in the charming snowy owl who plays Harry Potters faithful companion in the book and movie series. Hedwig, like real snowy owls, is portrayed as intelligent and having magical survival skills.