Snowy Owl in Cape May

Posted 01/29/06
by Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Columnist

CAPE MAY, N. J.– With the commotion on the beach promenade, you'd think a celebrity had come to town. In a way, one had.

A Snowy Owl that could have flown right off the screen of a Harry Potter movie took center stage along the beachfront Saturday.

The nearly all-white bird looked just like Hedwig, Harry Potter 's famous pet.

The owl started the day on some driftwood on the beach, near Madison Ave. Later, it moved to a loftier perch - next to a chimney on the roof of one of the nearby beachfront homes near Jefferson St.

Snowy Owls are rare visitors to South Jersey and Cape May. In the past decade perhaps a half dozen have been seen in town or on the beach.

Some birders wondered if the owl was the same one that has been present this winter on the marshes behind Stone Harbor and North Wildwood.

Although Snowy Owls are right at home in cold, windy, wide open environments like the beach, it has not been uncommon to see them sitting on the roof of a condo or a Cape May Victorian home.

As if by magic, Snowy Owls seem to appear from nowhere. The largest of North American owls, these birds nest on the Canadian, Siberian, and Alaskan tundra and generally migrate only as far south as southern Canada and the northern plains of the United States.

However, in some years, young birds like the one here in Cape May (a first year male) wander southward. They survive on mice, rats, rabbits, ducks, gulls, pigeons, and just about anything smaller that they can catch.

Although it didn’t fly out of a Harry Potter movie, the owl certainly provided entertainment for Cape May residents and tourists.

Tourists walking the boardwalk were alerted to the presence of the Snowy Owl by a cadre of birders with spotting scopes and binoculars.

Many who had never seen a Snowy Owl had great views of the owl as it rested, seemingly oblivious to the awed viewers.

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