This week, birdwatchers flocked to Cypress in Southern California to catch a glimpse of a very rare sight – a white-feathered snowy owl perched on a rooftop. Since snowy owls are native to arctic areas and less than 30,000 individuals are believed to exist worldwide, spotting one in a region such as Southern California can turn out to be a major event.
“I consider it an honor to be able to see the bird,” said Rob Young, an employer at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and one of the many people who gathered in the Cypress neighborhood to admire this majestic bird. “Kind of put a feather in my cap so to speak, no pun intended.”
According to experts, the bird’s appearance in Southern California is a mystery, particularly due to the drastic differences between this region and its natural habitat. Reports claim that this species has not been spotted so further south since 1928. For these reasons, people are also concerned about the bird’s safety.
“The only thing it has to worry about here is that there’s a lot more potential damage,” explained local veterinarian Scott Weldy. “There are a lot more cars. We have power lines, the windmills. We have tons of things that traumatize flying birds here in Southern California.”
Alongside passionate birdwatchers, wildlife experts also came to observe the bird, pondering if it could be injured or unable to fly for various reasons. “The first thing I’m noticing is the tail feathers are frayed,” said Dr. Elizabeth Wood from the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center. “So, that can indicate that the bird has been grounded for quite some time. It may just be from the days that it’s been on these roofs, but that can affect flight.”
“The best thing we can do is not capture or disturb it if it doesn’t need anything. We can do more harm than good if the capture went wrong,” concluded Debbie McGuire, the former Director of the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer
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