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'What in the World?' Snowy Owl Creates Spectacle in Downtown DC

Snowy owls have fled their Arctic home this winter. There have been sightings in Anne Arundel County and now in the heart of Washington.

A snowy owl welcomes winter to the Baltimore region. Photo by Jimmy Rode
A snowy owl welcomes winter to the Baltimore region. Photo by Jimmy Rode

Snowy owls, which call the Arctic tundra of Canada and Alaska home, have ranged far afield this winter, with confirmed sightings in the lower 48 states from the Great Lakes to Chesapeake Bay to Florida.

This week, one of the birds – known to many as the owl used in the“Harry Potter” movies -- appeared Wednesday at McPherson Square in the middle of downtown Washington, reports The Washington Post. “What in the world?” one man said as the owl stared at all the gawkers wielding cell phone cameras.

According to an eBird tracker operated by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, snowy owls have flocked to the Great Lakes region, the Atlantic seaboard, and even Bermuda.

In this region, the Post says there have been sightings at Reagan National Airport, Hains Point and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Earlier this winter Old Town Alexandria Patch reported airports have become popular sighting spots because the runways and airfields appear similar to the owls’ stark native land.

Atlantic Cities says the snowy owls are popping up farther south this winter because of a presumed deficit of Arctic lemmings. The ivory-colored owls require up to 12 small rodents a day to survive.  

Anne Arundel County birders had four sightings confirmed in December by the Cornell Ornithology Lab and listed on its website eBirdEdgewater Patch reported.

The birds were spotted in Churchton, on Deale Beach Road, in Galesville and on Gibson Island. 

"Either food is scarce, or there is a high population of snowy owls," Edgewater's Ross Geredien, who is on the board of the Anne Arundel County Bird Club, told Patch.

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