Snowy Owl Spotted in New York’s Central Park

An extremely rare and exciting sighting for bird enthusiasts.

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Female snowy owl spotted

(COULANGES / Shutterstock.com)

Bird watchers in Central Park had an amazing surprise this past January. A fluffy snowy owl made a stop there, becoming the first recorded sighting in the area since 1890. The owl created such a stir, crowds of onlookers came to look at what has been called a bucket list sighting.

Usually snowy owls fly right over Manhattan without stopping, so this event is truly historic. The snowy owl most likely decided to take a little trip south because it was looking for food. As reported by CBS News, snowy owls’ main sustenance is lemmings.

During the winter, lemmings hide under the snow to reproduce, however, a warming Arctic climate has created irregularities in the lemming population, leaving snowy owls hungry and searching afar for other sources of food

According to Scott Weidensaul, a naturalist who co-founded Project SNOWstorm, this inconsistent lemming population is causing snowy owls to be listed under the status of vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened species.

Since snowy owls are extremely dependent on lemmings, this may be influencing their migration path. They prefer habitats that resemble the Arctic tundra and this particular owl took a liking for the North Meadow baseball and softball fields right in Central Park! 

This turned out to be the perfect landing spot for the owl to rest and hunt for food. David Barrett, the birder who runs Manhattan Bird Alerts, told The New York Times that the snowy owl thought the sandy baseball field was a beach.

This Central Park sighting is a once-in-a-lifetime event for many bird watchers who ran over there with binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras. When birders were able to get a good look at the owl, they identified it as a young female due to her thick black stripes.

For birders, this is compared to winning the lottery, according to Eyewitness News. Ben Schwartz commented, “I thought it was a beautiful bird. It was nice to see people out enjoying something that wasn't pandemic related, everyone was just joyful about this bird.”

As stated on Gothamist, Kellye Rosenheim, the director of development at New York City Audubon said, “It’s a mega-rarity. This is a very important sighting. It’s extremely rare in Manhattan.” This sighting, combined with the saw whet owl that recently stowed away in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, has created much excitement for nature lovers.

All of this media hype may also enlighten people about the snowy owl’s vulnerability due to global warming. Although the snowy owl has since moved on from Central Park, the delight of her rare appearance continues. Birders still cannot believe that they were able to catch a glimpse of the owl in Manhattan of all places, and hope they will not have to wait another hundred years for the next sighting.

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