John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The fluffy-white hunters are everywhere this year, from New York to Baltimore all the way down to Florida.
The way the animal world is trending, owl pellets might soon become as common as pigeon poop. North America is experiencing a vast migration of snowy owls from the north, with spottings in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Providence, and many other cities in the Northeast.
The grouping points for these owls frequently involve airports. "Experts say the birds often stop at airports because the airfields look similar to the Arctic tundra where they live," explains The New York Times. In December, authorities at Kennedy International Airport started blasting owls with shotguns after five airplanes collided with the creatures. (They later switched to using traps.) Baltimore also had to remove an owl squatting at BWI Airport. Wildlife groups at Boston's Logan Airport report catching and relocating an "exceptionally high" number of visiting owls – the creatures are bulky and fly low, making them especially dangerous to jets.
The creatures' voracious hunger is driving them far south this winter. A snowy owl needs up to 12 small rodents a day to survive, and there's presumably a deficit of Arctic lemmings, one of the species' key food groups. If you're the birdwatching type, be on the look out for ivory-white birds that like to dine in the most gruesome manner possible:
There's also the option of following the movements of the owls with this helpful spottings map from eBird, a project supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. The crowd-sourced map shows a vast Owl Belt stretching below the Canadian border, with individual sightings as far south as North Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida. Have a look – darker purple regions indicate a higher density of spottings:
In regards to that Florida owl, an observer reported last week that it's been hanging around for at least four days, staying in "the sand dune posing." It looks like it's wilting in the heat:
This guy was noticed a couple days ago chilling on the roof of a Boston restaurant:
An owl-eyed observer caught this one strutting around on the field at D.C.'s Reagan National Airport, seemingly oblivious to the planes taking off and landing:
And in Brooklyn, somebody saw this smug-looking individual crouched in the grass at Floyd Bennett Field: