One hundred years is a lot of change for Earth. From technological advances, environmental changes, prevalent thought, and evolutionary movement, a hundred years can be defining in its historical containment. As the stress of Covid isolation rages on, the interests of birdwatchers, especially those who look for rare appearances, have concentrated on the arrival of a snowy owl. Ok. No big deal, right? Well, this one is, as it’s the first documented sighting of the snowy owl in New York’s City’s famed Central Park since 1890. That’s well over 100 years of history and change for the park and the city between sightings.
Spotting a Rarity
The snowy owl arrived in the park on January 27, 2021. The popular twitter account, @birdcentralpark, run by noted birder, David Barrett (with a verified follower base of 4,200 birders), alerted readers to the arrival of the raptor at around 10:30 am. In little time, the park had more than 100 onlookers catching sight of a probable ‘once in a lifetime’ viewing of the majestic bird. The party of viewers were respectful but were policed by the New York City Urban Park Rangers. Dogs were leashed and not allowed to disturb the bird as it stayed behind a fenced location of baseball fields at the Park’s Northern Meadow field. During the stay, the owl contended with a few crows, and a hawk, all displeased with its arrival. By 6:30 pm the snowy owl had lifted wings and flown away. The extended stay charmed the masses and gave plenty of opportunity for rare photos, a chance to educate themselves, and a lucky spot to watching an owl out of the ordinary for the spot.
A Snow Bird
The snowy owl is a bird of the Arctic region where it spends its summers. It is migratory, which leads it to other locations primarily found in Canada and the upper regions of the US. There are some that find their way to Siberia. But with the changes in the weathering of the environment, these magnificent birds have changed their patterns as noticed by the unusual arrival of the snowy owl in Central Park.
The snowy owl is a large creature with a wingspan that can reach over 5 feet in the male and a maximum of 6 feet for the female. The male can be measured as large as 25 inches in length while the female can be slightly larger, measuring 28 inches in length. Make no mistake, these raptors are quite sizeable and can be intimidating. They are nocturnal hunters of prey and are carnivorous, often eating their catch whole.
They are listed as Vulnerable, which is the first stage in the Threatened category of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). There are approximately 28,000 mature Snowy Owls in existence (not counting juveniles) with a decreasing trend attributed to global warming. The lifespan of a Snowy Owl is approximately 8 years in length. You can review pertinent conservation data of the Snowy Owl at the IUCN site (here).
The snowy owl that graced the stage for the NYC Central Park birdwatchers is considered to be a juvenile. It is suggested that the dark bars on the wings indicate its youthful status. Regardless, this sighting will be a warm memory for the few that were able to see the grand creature.
The @birdcentralpark Twitter account posted this video of the snowy owl.