Harry Potter fans (and others) unite! The snowy owl, which delivers messages to Harry Potter in the books and movies, lives in many places beyond Hogwarts. White plumage with sparse dark spots covers the snowy owl, which provides camouflage against snow. Like the reindeer, the snowy owl’s range is mostly a circumpolar distribution (around the North Pole), but during the winter, snowy owls can be seen as far south as Oklahoma reaching east-west from Washington to Maine.
According to Audubon Magazine, in an average year most snowy owls stay near the Arctic Circle, with a few appearing in southern Canada and the northern United States. Once every four years, an increased number of the owls move south. Recently, however, snowy owls have been showing up more along the East Coast of the United States, including Pennsylvania – and even Bermuda! What is the reason for this eastern invasion? The reason is still unknown but may be due to a large hatching this year and scarce food in the Arctic. One hypothesis is that unusual weather and lack of sea ice in the Arctic may be affecting the birds’ movements.
If you have been waiting to see a snowy owl in Pennsylvania, this might be the year! If you happen to spot one, please keep a respectable distance. Many of the snowy owls moving south are young and may be tired from seeking food. Snowy owls usually appear in open fields and marshes.
If you come across a snowy owl, take a photo and upload it to the Eyes on Central PA Mission on Project Noah! Your photo may be featured on this blog or in Chief Meteorologist Joe Murgo’s next on-air broadcast!