Considered one of the most significant wildlife events in decades, the iconic snowy owl of Arctic fame is winging it south in a mass migration to the lower 48 states. A handful of snowy owls do find their way to the lower 48 every year during the winter, but never in the thousands like we are witnessing this year.
Snowy owls, which stand two feet tall and have a wingspan of five feet with snow white plumage, have been spotted coast to coast this year from shorelines in Massachusetts to farmlands in Idaho, rooftops in Montana, golf courses in Missouri, at an airport in Hawaii and at a wildlife refuge in Washington. “What we are seeing — it’s unbelievable,” said Denver Holt, head of the Owl Research Institute in Montana.
The surge of snowy owl sightings in the lower 48 has been a boon for birders — and the local communities where the birds are spotted. ”For the last couple months, every other visitor asks if we’ve seen a snowy owl today,” said Frances Tanaka, a volunteer for the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Olympia, Washington.