Snowy owl spotted again at Cape Lookout National Seashore

A snowy owl watches the photographer from on top of a small dune. [NPS photo/Morgan Barnes]

Our visiting snowy owl seems to like the North Carolina coast.

Cape Lookout National Seashore biologists were out on South Core Banks this week and were ecstatic to spot the snowy owl seen around the Outer Banks this winter. A zoom lens on the camera let them take a photo without flushing the owl from its resting spot on the dune.
The owl first appeared in December on Pea Island, then moved south to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. In February, the bird was spotted at Cape Lookout National Seashore, then not seen again until this week.

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.

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About Kari Pugh 1073 Articles
Kari Pugh is digital director for, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at