WASHINGTON, D.C. – A little bit of the arctic is taking over the U.S. capital city and no it’s not the winter weather, but rather an owl and it’s captivated Washington, D.C.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no wait, it is a bird. In fact, it’s a snowy owl making an unusual appearance in Washington, D.C. “Chances are the snowy owl at union station is a young bird on its first migration,” said Scott Weidensaul with Project SNOWstorm, which tracks snowy owl movements.
Weidensaul said these arctic owls will usually migrate every winter as far south as southern Canada and the great lakes but every three to five years a population spike of lemmings, their primary food source, results in a snowy owl population boom. During those years, more owls migrate further and further south like this one, which has been spotted flying around D.C.’s union station for the past couple of weeks.
And this owl can certainly draw in some crowds.
“A lot of people are attracted to the owl,” said eleven year-old Andrew Tao who came to see the owl with his family.
“We heard there’s a rare snowy owl and we just wanted to come out and see it,” said Elijah St. Denis.
Almost every night, people flock to union station hoping to catch a glimpse or capture the owl on camera and if you’re lucky, see it take flight.
“That was pretty amazing,” said St. Denis. “My wife and I came out here on Friday trying to see it. We were out here about two, two and a half hours and didn’t and so we thought we have a little time on Monday lets go try again and then we saw the dramatic swoop.”
Weidensaul said these owls are curious about urban areas but cities also pose a threat to them. Planes, traffic and poisons given to rats they eat could be deadly. But Weidensaul encourages people to get out and see this owl while it’s still here.
“It’s obviously found a good spot to hunt every evening and it’s just delighting people in Washington who rarely get a chance to see that piece of the arctic coming south like that,” said Weidensaul.
Researchers said there are about 30-thousand snowy owls around the world, putting them on the ‘vulnerable’ species list.