Snowy Owl Sighting in Downtown DC

Today brought another rare sighting of a snowy owl in downtown Washington, D.C., this time on the Washington Post building at the corner of 15th and L St. N.W. (Any votes for renaming it the Owl Post?)

The news sparked a few resident National Wildlife Federation bird nerds (myself included) to go track it down with our own eyes. We were not disappointed. Unfortunately, none of us had a camera with us other than our phones, but here are a few shots of the beautiful creature:

Snowy Owl in Washington DC

Snowy owls don’t typically winter as far south as Washington, D.C., but this year brought an increase in sightings throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The anomaly is called an “irruption,” when species alter their range.

Snowy Owl in Washington DC

The snowy owl attracted a good number of people to stop and take in the strange sight, including my favorite, a woman who walked up laughing that she didn’t think the building we were staring at could be that exciting.

Snowy Owl in Washington DC

Initially, National Wildlife Federation Naturalist David Mizejewski, said the owl was a female. “You can tell by the black speckling in her plumage. Males are almost pure white (and a bit smaller too).” However, NWF Senior Scientist Doug Inkley suggested the owl could in fact be an immature male, which Mizejewski agreed could be “totally true.”

Snowy Owl Fun Facts from Ranger Rick

Ranger Rick Growing Up SnowyRead the full article from Ranger Rick magazine here >>

  • Most owls sleep during the day and are active at night. But not snowies! They are out and about during the day, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • A snowy’s favorite food is a small, hamster-like rodent called a lemming. In years when there are lots of lemmings in an area, you’ll find plenty of snowy owls there, too. But when lemming numbers fall, so does the snowy owl population.
  • A snowy spends much of the day silently perched on a high lookout, keeping an eye—and ear—out for prey. When it spots a meal, it swoops down, making a short, low flight, and nabs it with its sharp talons.
  • A snowy will attack any predators, including wolves, that threaten its ground nest.
  • Snowy owls have lots of names: Ghost Owls, Tundra Ghosts, Arctic Owls, and Great White Owls.
  • During hot weather, snowy owls stay cool by panting and spreading out their wings.

How Can You Spot a Snowy Owl?

During this winter’s current snowy owl “irruption,” one of the best places to hear about the latest sightings is to search Twitter for things like the #snowyowl hashtag. Avid birders are also really good about reporting sightings using apps like eBird. Also check out Project SNOWstorm.