BEND, Ore. – Wildlife scientists are puzzling over the appearance of the snowy owl in Oregon, a bird rarely seen in the state.
The owls are usually found in Alaska or Canada’s tundra, where their white feathers serve as camouflage. But in several places across Oregon, including Burns, Astoria, Lincoln City and Eugene, the Bend Bulletin reports snowy owl sightings.
“That’s a significant number of birds that aren’t normally found in the state,” said Simon Wray, conservation biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bend.
Snowy owls have been reported around the northern United States in recent months, said Bob Russell, a wetland bird biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Minneapolis.
“They are really pouring in,” he said.
The snowy owl can weigh about 4 pounds and has a wingspan of up to 5 1/2 feet. Oregon birders still remember the 1980s appearance of a juvenile snowy owl in the southern part of the state’s Rogue Valley, one of the more notable “accidental” bird sightings in Oregon.
Biologists speculate the bird might be making more southern appearances because of a lack of food, or perhaps because there are too many young owls in the tundra.
Whatever is causing the phenomenon, it could lead to an increase in Central Oregon owl sightings, Wray said.