Snowy Owls Swoop Into New York City During Deep Freeze

By Irene Plagianos | February 19, 2015 7:35am
 The artic predator has made its winter home in a few New York City locations
Snowy Owl Lands in New York
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NEW YORK CITY — The city’s deep freeze has attracted some serious cold-weather-loving tourists.

Rare snowy owls, which usually make their home in the Arctic, have been spotted several times since December in the city — in mostly wide open, coastal areas that resemble their tundra homes, experts said.

So far this year, the owls have been spotted at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, and Breezy Point and Jamaica Bay in Queens.

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And for the first time in recent memory, the fierce predator has been found making a wintry home on Governors Island — perching along young trees on the island’s new parkland, officials said.

The white and brown feathered bird — made popular by the "Harry Potter" series after Harry got one as a pet in the first book — was first noticed on snow-covered Governors Island last week, spokeswoman Elizabeth Rapuano said.

“We’ve had other types of owls, but this is a first for us, we think,” Rapuano said. “We don’t have a nickname for him yet, but we’d be happy to get suggestions from the public — they’ve always helped us out with naming our animals in the past.”

Naming the bird may be about as friendly as you should get with a snowy owl. Experts said not to be fooled by its cute fluff — the owl is a real killer.

“That owl is a top-notch predator,” said Tom Stephenson, a member of the Brooklyn Bird Club and the New York City Audubon Society. “A couple of years ago I watched it steal prey right from the clutches of a hawk on Jones Beach — it was amazing.”

But a glimpse of the bird is generally rare in the city. Last year happened to be a “banner year” for snowy owl sightings, Stephenson said, with several dozen spotted during the season as New York City endured an icy cold winter.

This year, about seven owls have been officially counted so far, said Tod Winston, a spokesman with the New York CIty Audubon Society.

No one knows exactly why the birds migrate into the city, though it's likely in search of food thanks to some kind of shortage in their frosty home.

"They're beautiful," Stephenson said. "You just don't want to get too close."

What would you name the snowy owl on Governors Island? Leave us a comment below or tweet @DNAinfo.