New York’s Historic Freezing Temperatures Attract Arctic Snowy Owls

Just as the owls in Harry Potter carry messages between the magical and muggle worlds, Snowy Owls are carrying a message of their own to New York City, in a very New York-esque phrase (as if New Yorkers needed further confirmation): “It’s friggin’ cold!”

Snowy owls have been arriving in New York and setting up camp, apparently enjoying the historic freezing cold temperatures in and around the Big Apple, where at least seven of the owls have been seen and identified, according to AOL News.

A snowy owl in Alaska.
A snowy owl chills out in Alaska.

Among the places snowy owls have been spotted is New York’s Governor’s Island in New York Bay. Officials there were thrilled by the snowy owl presence and tweeting out photographic evidence of the Arctic-capable bird.


While snowy owls have taken advantage of cold winter temperatures in the U.S. before, with 2013 sightings in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, according to DNA Info, bird experts think this may be the first snowy owl ever to take up residence on Governor’s Island.

The snowy owl was first noticed last week, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Rapuano.

“We’ve had other types of owls, but this is a first for us, we think,” said Rapuano.

“We don’t have a nickname for him yet, but we’d be happy to get suggestions from the public — they’ve always helped us out with naming our animals in the past.”

A special note to east coast owl lovers, however, who might be inclined to try to make friends, pet, or otherwise interact with the regal snowy owls. According to New York Magazine, these snowy owls behave nothing like Harry Potter’s pet owl, Hedwig. In fact, the snowy owl survives on its ability to hunt and kill, defensive and offensive tenacity, and grit, being required traits of hearty animals such as the snowy owl.

“That owl is a top-notch predator,” said Tom Stephenson, a member of the Brooklyn Bird Club and the New York City Audubon Society. “A couple of years ago I watched it steal prey right from the clutches of a hawk on Jones Beach. It was amazing!”

Spotting a snowy owl in New York City is rare, but last year was a “banner year” for snowy owl sightings, Stephenson said. Like this year, New York experienced a brutally cold winter last year, too, and dozens of snowy owl sightings were the result.

The snowy owl loves to eat lemmings, lots of lemmings, according to National Geographic. A lack of this primary food source in the snowy owl stomping grounds further north is thought to be a possible reason the snowy owl comes to New York.

And while the snowy owl in New York is a majestic sight, again, you don’t want one landing on your shoulder.

“They’re beautiful,” Stephenson said. “You just don’t want to get too close.”

[Images by Spencer Platt/Getty Images and Floyd Davidson/Wikipedia]