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Rare Arctic snowy owl brings cheer in California

The rare Arctic bird Snowy Owl in Orange County (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@AudubonCA)

Residents of Cypress city situated in Orange County of Los Angeles in the United States had a surprise visitor calling on them. As per a report in smithsonianmag.com it was a snowy owl whose appearance gathered a large number of admirers as it perched on the rooftop.

Interestingly, among its avid fans there were not just locals but also some who had travelled more than 150 kilometres to admire this rare creature in this part of the US. The owl meanwhile seems to be at home with all the admiration showered on it.

Talking about the owl, Chris Spurgeon of Pasadena Audubon Society commented: “Stardom seems to suit him.”

The snowy owl also known as polar or white or Arctic owl is a native to the Arctic regions of North America and Palearctic and breeds mostly in Tundra. One of the largest species of owl, this two-foot-tall bird is the only one with white plumage and Southern California is not a place it visits, making its sighting a novelty.

Some of them do move to south of the Canadian border and spotting them in Texas is rare and seeing them in Orange County is described as “extremely rare” by Lori Arent, Assistant Director of The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota.

As per Spurgeon, “they’re not supposed to be here—normally they don’t venture farther south than Oregon.”

There are different theories as to how the creature landed at Orange Country. Some say it may have made it on a ship. Elaborating on this, Victor Leipzig, who teaches birding at Saddleback College told the media: “I hear stories of especially what we call pelagic birds or seabirds landing on ships and just staying on the ship for hundreds of miles, sometimes until the ship arrives in port. So, could an owl do it? Doesn’t seem quite as likely, but I don’t think we can rule out any of these ideas.”

Others feel that it may have been a pet which has escaped captivity while many feel it may have been blown thousands of kilometres by a storm to land here.

Many are concerned as to what this exotic bird feeds on as its diet primarily consists of lemmings – small rodents – in the Arctic while it does prey on birds as big as the geese. Till now the owl seems to have managed to get a meal as it was seen coughing up some undigested remains.

Meanwhile, residents are making the best of their new guest with several calling it a gift. One avid birdwatcher told KTLA, a TV station in California: “It’s such a rarity to have something like this. It’s like a Christmas present from Mother Nature to us in Southern California.”