Before 2022 came to a close, residents of a Southern California town were treated to a surprising sight. Spotted on top of a suburban rooftop was a large and magnificent snowy owl, who was a ways away from home. The large-winged predator is native to arctic tundras such as northern Canada and Greenland but it somehow made its way to an area 25 miles away from Los Angeles, where there are more palm trees than snow.
It was first seen perched on someone's house in Cypress, California, on December 27, and has remained a daily fixture of the area ever since. “It’s astonishing to see a snowy owl in Southern California,” Chris Spurgeon, program chair and member of the board of directors at the Pasadena Audubon Society, said. He explains that even in areas where they are indigenous, it is still difficult to spot them. In fact, there are only about 500,000 snowy owls in the world, making this visitor to California all the more mysterious.
“Birds that migrate do occasionally do crazy things: go in the wrong direction, go too far, migrate at the wrong time of year, stuff like that,” Spurgeon adds. One theory is that the snowy owl is younger and has not had as much experience migrating, leading him to fly too far away from home. Even so, it seems as though it has acclimated to the unfamiliar surroundings; thanks, in part, to the cooler California weather. Additionally, bird experts that have been monitoring the snowy owl have not noticed any signs of injury or illness; it also does not appear to possess a leg band or clipped wings which would indicate it was an escaped captive bird.
Fortunately, there is enough small prey in the area for it to hunt. So, for now, the snowy owl is a happy new resident of Southern California.
A snowy owl made a surprise appearance in a Southern Californian town.
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The large bird—which is not native to the area—was seen in Cypress, a town 25 miles outside of Los Angeles.
An extremely rare snowy owl made a surprise appearance in suburban Southern California. What brought it to Cypress, about 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles, remains a mystery and the subject of impassioned debate among bird watchers and curious neighbors. https://t.co/7UJXIUjtFB pic.twitter.com/EkfQp8tlyP
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 31, 2022
h/t: [CNN, Smithsonian Magazine]
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