This winter’s most famous Outer Banks visitor appears to making his way south. After being spotted on Pea Island, Hatteras Island and Ocracoke in late December and early January, it appears the snowy owl headed to Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The bird was photographed there on the South Core Banks by Jon Altman of the National Park Service.
Peter Vankevich, publisher of the Ocracoke Observer and a longtime follower of visiting snowy owls, said the Cape Lookout owl is probably the same bird seen on the Outer Banks this winter.
I see you! A Snowy Owl sits on a small sand dune watching the park’s biologist. Its white coloring blends in nicely with the light colored sand.
NPS photo/Jon Altman
Snowy owls, the largest of the North American owls, generally live in the far north near the North Pole, and winter in southern Canada and the northern United States. About every four years they travel south well outside their normal range in a phenomena called “irruption,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says..
For reasons not understood, snowy owls have been “irrupting” more often in recent years. In fact, a few spent several winters on Ocracoke Island and were spotted around Cape Hatteras between 2014 and 2017, with their time here well documented by the the Ocracoke Observer.
Since their normal range is far north and there are far fewer people living nearby, the snowy owl isn’t really used to seeing us. But humans flock for a rare sighting of the beautiful white bird when one is around. We, however, need to give the owl distance and respect.
Note: If you search for this owl, keep a distance so as not to spook it causing it to fly away. These photos were taken with a long lens.