Posted by: atowhee | February 1, 2021


Here is story about the Snowy Owl in Central Park–last New York City Snowy Owl was 130 years ago. So this is a once every two lifetimes event. Birders gather.

I’ve seen the bird three times, once in each Pacific Slope state. Years ago one was wintering along the mouth of the Sacramento River near Benicia. I’ve seen one at Fern Ridge Reservoir west of Eugene, and one in a suburban area of Sequim, where it was hunting from a fine garden gazebo. Like Great Gray Owls, they range across the Arctic region of the Northern Hemisphere, though never nesting as far south as the Great Grays. Snowys are the heaviest and strongest of the owls in North America, killing prey that sometimes weighs more than the owl itself, including Arctic hares and ducks.

Here is the beginning of John James Audubon’s description of the Snowy Owl from his The Birds of North America. The nine volumes were actually composed by William MacGillivray who never visited North America. He wrote the books from Audubon’s journals and memories while they worked together in Scotland.

This was written in the first half of the 19th Century before there really was an Oregon or Washington State and California was still part of Mexico. The Snowy Owl then was clearly much more numerous. That was before much of interior Canada and Alaska were settled by Europeans and long before we began exploiting the oil and gas resources and even decades before the Yukon Gold Rush.
The muskrat mention led to a description later in Audubon’s account of an angry fur trapper in Maine who began killing Snowy Owls because they were “stealing” his muskrats. So even then the beauty of the bird made no difference when personal profit was at stake.

Audubon’s image of a pair of Snowys:

Click for news story on previous celebrity birds in The Big Apple–we all remember when them there city folks discovered a pair of nesting red-tails on a Manhattan high rise. “Pale Male” became world famous, got his biography written about him and his mate(s). Recent articles report over 20 pairs annually nest inside the city limits, some are–we can hope–his progeny.

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