Snowy Owls Showing Up Across the Hamptons This Winter

Snowy owl in flight at Shinnecock East County Park in Southampton Sunday afternoon.
Snowy owl in flight at Shinnecock East County Park in Southampton Sunday afternoon. Photo credit: Christopher Broich

Have you spotted a snowy owl at the beach—or even in your backyard—this winter? You’re not the only one.

Several birdwatchers, nature photographers and others who just happen to be in the right spot at the same time have reported sightings of these majestic birds of prey in the Hamptons.

According to Nick Marzano, the director of education and raptor handler for the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, “Snowy owls are not as rare as it seems. There are seen up and down the East Coast, as far south as Virginia, during the colder months, he says.

Snowy owls are ground nesting birds that live on the tundra, Marzano says. The eat lemmings, but when the lemming population depletes, they head south in search of other food sources.

Marzano recalls about five years ago when a snowy owl with an injured wing was reported to the wildlife rescue center. Animal rescuers went searching for it, and after they found it they brought the male juvenile owl in for veterinary treatment. Its broken wing had to be amputated at the elbow. Because it was not fit to be returned to the wild, the owl was sent to the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis to join the breeding program. Offspring are released into the wild.

According to National Geographic, this winter the Northeast may see its largest ever influx of Arctic owls. JFK and other New York area airports have reportedly issued shoot-on-sight orders for snowy owls, because of the risk that they could fly into a plane’s engine. The Port Authority is working toward nonlethal methods for removing the birds.

Have you spotted a snowy owl in the Hamptons this winter. Send you photo to [email protected].

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