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Snowy Owl Visiting St. Simons Island, Georgia

Photo by Tom Dennard (taken on 11th Street, East Beach)

Photo by Tom Dennard (taken on 11th Street, East Beach, St. Simons Island)

First sighted on December 4 on Sea Island, this beautiful snowy owl has been on Sea Island and St. Simons Island, Georgia since. The Snowy Owl spends summer in the Arctic Circle and rarely travels further south than the northern United States. A Snowy Owl in Georgia is extremely rare and has been causing a lot of excitement on the Island. Bird enthusiasts have been visiting from all over the Southeast just to catch a glimpse of this amazing bird, who does not disappoint with daily appearances around the East Beach area.

With such a rare occurrence, we’ve done a little research on the Snowy Owl and have a few interesting facts to share from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology online:

  • Unlike most owls, Snowy Owls are diurnal, extremely so. They’ll hunt at all hours during the continuous daylight of an Arctic summer. This has made for great daylight sightings on St. Simons Island.
  • Whether the tundra or the Great Plains, an airport field or beach dunes, Snowy Owls like treeless places and wide-open spaces. Because they often sit right on the ground to hunt, they prefer rolling terrain where they can find a vantage to survey the surrounding area. On their wintering grounds they’ll also perch atop a fencepost, hay bale, building, telephone pole, grain elevator—anywhere with a good view.
  • Snowy Owls mainly eat small mammals, particularly lemmings, which at times on the tundra may be all these birds eat. Sometimes they’ll switch to ptarmigan and waterfowl. Snowy Owls are also one of the most agile owls, able to catch small birds on the fly. On both their breeding and wintering grounds, their diet can range widely to include rodents, rabbits, hares, squirrels, weasels, wading birds, seabirds, ducks, grebes, and geese.
  • Snowy Owls do a lot of sitting. They sit still in the same spot for hours, occasionally swiveling their head or leaning forward and blinking their big, yellow eyes to get a closer look at something. When they hunt, they use extraordinary vision and hearing to draw a bead on their prey—maybe a vole scurrying beneath the snow—and then fly, or even run, over to pounce on it. If successful, they’ll down the rodent headfirst in a single gulp.

Though it is far outside its normal habitat, from the description above, we can see why this Snowy Owl has found a nice stopping place on St. Simons Island! The owl has been seen perched in the same spot for hours, scanning the open beach for prey. We’re not sure how long it will stay, but we love having snowbirds of all types on St. Simons Island!

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