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Snowy owls making rare appearance in Western Washington

Article Date: 2005-12-25   Source:   Comments: 19

Bellevue, Washington, U.S.A. - Snowy owls are being spotted throughout the region, apparently making one of their rare migrations south.

Paul Talbott, owner of the general contracting company TCI Inc., watched a snowy owl for several hours one day this past week while it sat on a second-story ledge just feet from his downtown Bellevue office.

''It's a gorgeous bird,'' Talbot said Wednesday. ''He just sat there all day long. His head kept turning about 360 degrees. He'd shake the water off his head when it rained.''

Although the bird disrupted his work routine, Talbot said it was worth it.

"Like my business manager said, 'That's the best Christmas present I could have had,'" he said. "There was a steady flow of people who wanted to see it. How could I refuse?"

In recent weeks, a snowy owl has also been lingering in Seattle's Discovery Park, and at least three have been counted to the north in Whatcom County.

Snowy owls are 20 to 27 inches long, weigh 2.5 to 4.3 pounds and have a wingspan of 54 to 65 inches. They spend their winters in the Arctic, eating mainly lemmings and voles, said Gretchen Albrecht, a raptor keeper at the Woodland Park Zoo.

It's uncommon for snowy owls to migrate this far south in the winter, but every few years, Albrecht said, the lemming population in northern Alaska dips and the raptors head south in search of food.

"In those years you get owls in odd places," Albrecht said. "This is pretty far south, the far end of their winter movement."

Albrecht said she spotted Discovery Park's snowy owl about two weeks ago. It was the first one she'd seen in the area since joining the raptor center five years ago.

The last time birders of Whatcom County saw a lot of snowy owls was nine years ago, in the winter of 1996-97.

Denver Holt, a snowy owl researcher who divides his time between Charlo, Mont., and Barrow, Alaska, said he's received reports of owl sightings this year from the Great Lakes, the Pacific Northwest and Montana.

Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from and placed here for comment. is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.

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On 2006-09-18, from Bellevue Washington wrote: "I have seen a snowy owl at my home in Bellevue Washington. My home is next to 80 acres of City park forest. Last winter I came face to face with the white beauty. He was sitting on a tree branch on the stair way leading down to my home. I haven't seen him but my sons have heard him hooting in the forest next to my home. "

On 2006-12-05, Ashley Feng wrote: "i like snowy owls I wish I had one for a pet"

On 2007-01-27, Glen Nomura from Olympia, WA wrote: "I saw a snowy owl on 01-24-2007 at Ocean City State Park in the coastal town of Ocean Shores, WA. It was in the evening (9:50 pm). I witnessed the bird standing on the ground surveying the terrian. It didn't,initially, seem bothered by our headlights. We got out of our car and was able to approach it to approx. 70 feet away. It appeared to be a female. The gorgeous creature flew up to a tree perch. I estimate the wingspan about 5 ft. It flew without making any perceptible sound. Absolutely breathtaking!"

On 2010-06-20, from Tacoma, WA wrote: "On June 19th right before midnight I was crossing over 512 headed North on Portland Ave. and a huge white owl flew less than a foot from my windshield. A friend who lives on that corner says he sees them there often."

On 2011-02-26, Joseph from Arlington, WA wrote: "I saw one mid-December 2010 while driving next to a wooded area in a housing development at night. I was shocked at first because I didn't think they were in WA, until I googled it later on. It was eating a rat or rabbit or something on the ground."

On 2011-05-04, Michele from Everett wrote: "I was driving from Everett into Marysville tonight and a huge white owl flew right in front of my car. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I did not know we had white owls around here but I hope they stick around!"

On 2011-06-27, from Lynnwood wa 98037 wrote: "There is a large white owl in my back yard right now hanging out in a tree. It flew from one tree to another, it's very beautiful and has a brilliant wing span with very pretty feathers. I hope it stays around. It 11pm and I cant see it as well as I would like in the dark. Just amazing! "

On 2011-10-15, from Vancouver Washington wrote: "several years back my brother and i headed out to Amboy Washington to visit a friend, it was around nine pm when we reached 449Th street headed northeast. we call this area the back country filled with rolling hills full of roads and farm land, large spreads of wooded wet lands and forestry,we were in my brothers Chevy truck moving at a good click, around 45 mph. When from out of No where a Large white owl appeared, traveling over the top of the truck with us , you could see his undercarriage and his wingspan looked larger then the length of the cab bed,My brother had the brights on so the view was spectacular, His head was swooped forward and angled down, his size was massive, and i could see the darker rings of black around his eye's.
I was shocked and over whelmed with instant fear! My Brother and i both shouted out at the same time, "WHAT IN THE WORLD" then my brother seen it was a large white owl flying over head, and i like freaked out, it felt like The land of the giants and a pterodactyl was coming in for his kill......LOL, i know that's funny but, When my brother slowed down the truck the owl kept going and we watched it fly past us,In to the star lite night, it stayed in view for about 2 minutes, as we followed him on the road, he was so beautiful and massive i couldn't wait to tell our friend, When we arrived their, we told our story to john, His reply was This owl lives in the big red barn across the prairie, and all the locals know about him but keeps it hush hush, what i would give to Go out their and see if we could capture some pictures,
I have always heard of large white Owls but now I can say I have seen one with my own two eyes..well i hope you enjoyed my story and i hope to hear from you if you have any ? my e-mail address is thanks

On 2011-10-27, Cindy Smith from Aberdeen, WA wrote: "This morning I saw a beautiful snowy owl perched on a telephone wire in Aberdeen. Had to come home and look it up online to see what kind it was as I didn't think snowy owls lived here. It was an amazing sight!"

On 2011-11-27, from Leavenworth, WA wrote: "Greeted home after a Thanksgiving trip by a lovely snowy white owl perched on a small hill overlooking our pond. It had a nice view over the meadow and is a WELCOME guest to our home anytime!
What a joy to gaze at such a beautiful creature!

On 2011-12-02, Darrel from Wa. wrote: " A lot has changed since this article was written, the interruptive range of the snowy owl now extends down to central California, they are a fairly regular occurrance in Washington in Winter now. Just this week 7 were seen at one time at Damon Point, 4 in Sequim, 2-3 in Kitsap and another 4-5 near Stanwood, as well as sighting's in Seattle and Renton and winter is just beginning."

On 2012-01-04, from Issaquah, WA wrote: "Think we saw a snowy owl tonight on our 5 acre property. It was huge & whitish color. Hope I'm not mistaking it for another type of owl but the color was mostly white!"

On 2012-06-03, Lucy from Puyallup wrote: "I have spotted a few white owls in puyalllup and in federal way on several occasions. I unfortunately saw one dead on the side of the road going down highway 167. I have never seen a white owl in this area. "

On 2013-01-19, Barbara from Olympia WA wrote: "Snowy owl perched on building in downtown Olympia for about a week now - today January 19, 2013. Beautiful specimen!"

On 2013-02-18, maddie freeman wrote: "About 12:30pm in tacoma wa! Flying over the freeway and turned its head to make eye contact for about 30 seconds! Crazy experience. Huge face. All white. Low flying. "

On 2013-03-13, Marty from Morton, Illinois wrote: "Driving home from work (second shift)-about 11:20PM CST, I had just crossed the Illinois river, I had what 'I think' was a White Owl (huge and I mean HUGE wingspan), fly right in front of my truck! At first, I thought a deer was crossing the road, then I realized it was off the ground and PURE WHITE! It was one of those things where at first it is so surreal you almost don't believe what you are seeing, and then it sinks in and common sense sinks in. It wasn't "MOTHMAN" or anything like that. It was definitely a white owl and I feel blessed to see such a rare sighting right in front of me. I actually had the cruise control on about 70 and had to slow it down a bit, I was afraid I might hit it! It was an awesome sight and I do not interpret it as some sort of "omen". I just think I was fortunate enough to view a very awesome sight of nature!"

On 2014-04-19, Rachelle Turner from Olympia wrote: "On 4-19-2014, I was driving South on I-5 @ 1:30am, approaching Lakewood, WA. Suddenly a white owl flew in front of my car! It was amazing!"

On 2014-07-11, from Pubelo West, Colorado wrote: "my story goes back about 10 years when I was in the kitchen and there's a large window in the kitchen and I saw this huge white owl was just sitting on the branch just watching me go back-and-forth in the kitchen but I really think that I was looking for my cat"

On 2015-10-20, from Oregon wrote: "On Oct.18, 2015 I was driving south on HWY 101 in Oregon from Yachats to Florence at about 1030pm and a huge white owl swooped from the left and then flew directly at my truck windshield head on and I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting it. The wings were wider spread out than the windshield. It happened very fast and I did not see it's face. "

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