January 7, 2014

Wild About: Snowy owls

Wild About is a celebration of the flora and fauna commonly found in our cities. Instead of fact sheets, this space will showcase books, art, music, societies, and whimsical objects about urban-adaptable plants and animals. If you would like to see your favorite urban-oriented plant or animal featured, please email us at info(at)localecology.org.

Image: Snowy owl infographic, produced by Kate Fulton/designed by Karen Brazell for PBS (source)

Much of last week's snow has melted or was washed away by warm weather and rain yesterday. Yet, today's very cold temperature is in keeping with the Arctic-dwelling snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus). The snowy owl is not a typical urban-adapted bird but it irrupted spectacularly in the New York metro area last year.  The irruption received a lot of coverage.  A few of the pieces we read were:

1. The snowy owls are saved! via WNYC Radio
2. Snowy owl migration to the U.S. among biggest ever via Discovery News (H/T Wild New Jersey)
3. Snowy owls: Bird expert Kenn Kaufman answers 12 questions via Audubon Magazine

I have not read all the Harry Potter books but this series popularized the snowy owl.  Harry's pet is a snowy owl named Hedwig.

Image: Schleich snowy owl toy (source)

It's unlikely that any of us will have a snowy owl as a pet.  How about a Schleich snowy owl toy?  I like that Scleich provides natural history factoids in its World of Nature toy series.  If you would prefer snowy oil art, there is a dramatic oil painting titled Ghost in Torrit Woods by LaurasWildlife on Etsy or the classic Snowy Owls by John James Audubon.

Looking for a book for young children with a snowy owl as the central character, consider Ookpik: The Travels of a Snowy Owl, by Bruce Hiscock.   Here's a description from the New York Public Library website:
One snowy owl's first year and its struggle to survive. Fed by his parents, Ookpik, which means "snowy owl" in the Inuit language, grows quickly in the short Arctic summer. By autumn he has learned to hunt on his own, but prey is scarce on the tundra that year. The owl's instincts tell him that he must leave this land or starve. Ookpik flies south, over the great forests of Canada, and finally lands in the United States, always searching for food and a winter hunting ground. With vivid watercolor illustrations, Bruce Hiscock depicts the changing landscape, from the treeless Arctic of Baffin Island to the dairy country of eastern New York. There, Ookpik settles for the winter, much to the delight of bird watchers. An author's note offers additional details on the life of the snowy owl.
Did you see a snowy owl during last year's irruption?

Previously in the Wild About series: Squirrels, Eating insects, Chipmunks, Pigeons, Ginkgo.

Wild About was inspired by the Animal Love series at Design*Sponge.  

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