Snowy Owls Return to Vancouver

Photo Credit: Remy Scalza | Flickr

The snowy owls are back.

The cuddly looking birds with white feathers and giant yellow eyes have again taken up residence in Delta, outside of Vancouver, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.  More than two dozen of the enormous owls, which stand up to 61 centimetres and have a wingspan of 1.5 metres, are currently living in Boundary Bay Regional Park.

For wildlife lovers, it’s a rare treat.  While the owls also appeared last year, they are far from a common sight in the area.  They spend their summers on the arctic tundra, growing fat on lemmings hunted on the open plains.  When cold weather hits, they migrate south, occasionally ending up in the Lower Mainland.

Thousands of birdwatchers flocked to Delta and Tsawwassen to see the snowy owls last year.  On some days, the dykes along the bay were nearly wall-to-wall tripods, as eager photographers lined up for shots.

Wildlife experts warn, however, that too much disturbance could be lethal for the animals, which are already weakened from the long flight and a lack of food over the summer.  People wanting a peek at the owls are urged to keep a respectful distance and use binoculars and scopes.  Agitating the birds or causing them to take flight could deplete their already limited energy reserves and actually kill the animals.  

With pure white feathers and large, almost feline eyes, the snowy owls are not hard to spot on the beaches and wetlands around Boundary Bay.  Unlike most owls, they are not strictly nocturnal.  Owing to their arctic upbringing – with whole months of continuous daylight and darkness – they hunt both day and night.

Photo credit: Remy Scalza | Flickr

Most of the time, they tend to perch motionless on logs and driftwood, seemingly asleep until they open their luminous eyes and ruffle their feathers.  Males are pure white (right down to the claws, which are cloaked in feathers), while females have some brown feathers interspersed.

Has anyone else seen the snowy owls in Delta and Tsawwassen this year?  Let us know.

Want more updates on Vancouver and beyond? Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.

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