Snowy owl sightings continue

    After arriving from Canada in late November, snowy owls continue to enjoy the Jersey Shore.

    Jersey Shore Hurricane News photographers have been snapping away since then, capturing stunning images of the graceful bird. We’ve put together a gallery of photos submitted to JSHN since New Year’s Day.

    The snowy owl is a large bird of prey that hails from the Canadian tundra, according to The Raptor Trust, a non-profit bird rehabilitation facility based in Millington, NJ. The facility provides the following description of the bird on its website:

    When perched, the bird has a smooth, heavy appearance. Its head is rounded and lacks feather tufts. It has bright yellow eyes, a black beak, and thickly feathered legs and feet. The female is larger than the male, as in all owls, but the recognizable difference is that the adult male is almost pure white, while the female has dark, heavy flecking.

    The snowy owl is occasionally seen in New Jersey during the winter months, preferring “open country,” including “fields, pastures, coastal beaches and airports,” according to the organization.

    They’ll visit New Jersey more often if the availability of food — including mostly lemmings, but also rabbits, rodents, birds, and fish — in the Arctic region is low, as explained on The Raptor Trust’s website:

    These winter visits to our state depend on the availability of food in its Arctic home, not on the severe weather there, which the bird is well equipped to endure. Periodically, in cycles of from four to eight years, the populations of the Snowy’s usual northern prey species decline. Then these owls begin a southward movement in search of food, and we are afforded a chance to see one of nature’s masterpieces.

    In 2012, there was an unusual spike in snowy owl sightings in the United States, including one spotted at an airport in Hawaii.

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