Lifestyles

Snowy owl stops in downtown Victoria

A snowy owl stops for a rest high on the courthouse in downtown Victoria Thursday. Despite their northern plumage, they are periodic visitors to the region
A snowy owl stops for a rest high on the courthouse in downtown Victoria Thursday. Despite their northern plumage, they are periodic visitors to the region's rich feeding grounds.
— image credit: Contributed

Downtown Victoria's courthouse had an unusual visitor Thursday, a snowy owl that took a rest stop on the sixth floor.

Sporting plumage better suited to swooping down on winter-white rabbits hopping over snowdrifts, the bird stood out against the street crows and seagulls that dominate the sky in the B.C. capital.

But according to bird experts, such sights are rare but not unknown. Canadian Geographic notes that while their thick feathers are suited for year-round life in Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia, some head south in winter as far as the U.S. state of Georgia.

Unlike most owls, snowy owls are not nocturnal. It is believed their daytime hunting behaviour developed during the almost constant daylight of far north summers when they typically nest and breed.

Male snowy owls can be completely white, while females always have some brown feathers.

A 1994 article by Alan MacLeod for British Columbia Field Ornithologist reports sightings in the Martindale Valley in southern Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula.

"Snowy owl has been recorded, and it's no surprise," MacLeod writes. "The flats are well suited to this species' habitat preferences; in their periodic 'invasion' years, Snowies are as likely to turn up at Martindale as anywhere else on the peninsula."

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