The internet is buzzing over the extremely rare appearance of a snowy owl landing in Central Park late January, a sight experts say hasn’t happened for over a century.
According to CBS, the snowy owl was sighted in the North Meadow baseball field last week, likely migrating south for the winter.
The bird, which is native to the Arctic tundra, sometimes flies south in search of warmer temperatures during the winter months. However, the last known appearance of a snowy owl in Central Park was over 130 years ago, in 1890.
Yet even more remarkably, ABC reports that this is the first photographic evidence of snowy owls in Central Park.
“It is extremely unlikely that we will ever see another Snowy Owl in our lifetimes in Central Park,” Manhattan Bird Alert told ABC on Jan. 28.
“Remember, the last one was over 100 years ago. Though more people observe birds now. But *this* particular Snowy Owl could be back tomorrow. I will be looking for it. As will many others.”
The reason for the species’s lack of appearances, CBS reports, might be due to the snowy owl’s erratic migration patterns. Scientists don’t fully understand the snowy owl’s southern migration—or sometimes, lack thereof.
In some cases, snowy owls don’t migrate south at all; in fact, some actually fly farther north in the winter, where they hunt over the ice floes in the Arctic Sea.
These inconsistencies have left scientists somewhat puzzled over the bird’s migration habits. They suspect that the birds are motivated by finding more abundant prey, but this is just a theory.
However, it is known that snowy owls fly south in what are called “interruption years.” In the past, these interruptions have brought great numbers of snowy owls south, sometimes even as far as Florida and Texas.
Now, people are flocking to Central Park in hopes of catching a glimpse of the ultra-rare Arctic visitor.
Bea Schwartz, a witness who saw the bird in person on Jan. 27, told ABC, “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.”
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