The forbidding frozen wilderness of the excessive Arctic tundra is the pure dwelling of the snowy owl, an awesome predator completely tailored to searching its main meals supply, lemmings.
However someday over the previous few weeks, one snowy owl particularly made a shock look in noticeably much less harsh terrain — the shingled roofs and white chimneys of suburban Southern California.
What introduced the owl to town of Cypress, in Orange County, about 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles, stays a thriller and the topic of impassioned debate among the many scores of fowl watchers and curious neighbors who’ve come out to marvel on the fowl.
Regardless of the owl’s journey might have been, the sight of such an uncommon raptor set amongst streets lined with palm bushes has been “wonderful,” mentioned Nancy Caruso, a neighbor who has seen the owl.
“It’s like seeing Santa Claus on a seaside,” mentioned Ms. Caruso, a marine biologist. “Like that misplaced, however cool.”
Neighbors have come to note a sample with the fowl, which appears to take off round 5 p.m. earlier than reappearing someday later, like a commuter, to its suburban roost.
“I’ve been hanging out with him a few instances a day, and I’m not a fowl man in any means, form or type,” mentioned Joshua Lindsay, a common contractor who lives close by.
He mentioned the “completely ginormous” owl had been “divebombed by hawks and robins” and “would look over at them, like, ‘Actually? What the hell are you going to do?’”
Lori Arent, the assistant director of the Raptor Middle on the School of Veterinary Drugs on the College of Minnesota, mentioned that snowy owls are recognized emigrate from northern Canada to the Midwestern and northeastern United States through the winter. Some have been noticed as far south as Texas, she mentioned. (In January 2021, one visited Central Park, making a frenzy amongst city birders.)
Nevertheless it was “extraordinarily uncommon” to seek out one as far south and west as Southern California, Ms. Arent mentioned.
She mentioned it was doable that the owl might have merely flown hundreds of miles to Orange County. Or it might have “hitched a experience” on a ship, she mentioned, perhaps from someplace alongside the Canadian coast, just like the port of Vancouver, or Alaska. Others have speculated that the fowl might have been saved as an unique pet and escaped.
“Will probably be attention-grabbing to see how lengthy this fowl stays,” Ms. Arent mentioned. “The query shall be: Will this fowl have the ability to discover sufficient meals to eat?”
She mentioned snowy owls that fly south typically want flat, open terrain reminiscent of airports the place they’ll extra simply hunt small prey. That might make Cypress an interesting vacation spot: The Joint Forces Coaching Base, Los Alamitos, a Nationwide Guard facility with an airfield, is just a few miles away because the owl flies.
When the owl returns, pleasure fills the neighborhood.
“Probably the most thrilling factor for me is that the general public is reacting so positively,” mentioned Victor Leipzig, who teaches birding at Saddleback School in Mission Viejo, Calif., and is a previous president of the native chapter of the Audubon Society.
“I used to be there on Tuesday of this week, and there have been folks from the native neighborhood who had been simply thrilled and individuals who had pushed from 100 miles away to see the fowl,” he mentioned.
Scott Thomas, the raptor analysis chairman on the native Audubon chapter, mentioned the owl had lately been noticed coughing up a pellet of bones and fur, an indication that it had discovered a small animal to eat.
However there are risks within the space, reminiscent of automobiles, rodenticide and airplanes touchdown on the navy base. In some unspecified time in the future, he mentioned, the preferred raptor in Cypress might merely transfer on, headed north to the Arctic.
“The factor I can say for positive is persons are going to proceed to observe it — loads,” Mr. Thomas mentioned. “And someday it is going to disappear, simply fly off.”