Being native to the Arctic Tundra, the snowy owl is an extremely rare sight to humans today. In fact, in New York City’s Central Park, the city’s largest urban park and popular destination for bird enthusiasts, the majestic creature had not been seen for a while, to say the least. In fact, the last documented appearance of this bird was over 130 years ago, when an unusually large flock was spotted in December of 1890 passing by the park en route to the East Coast of the United States. Unfortunately, the absence of high-speed cameras in the 19th century meant that the owl’s appearance would be limited to an eyewitness description. However, on Wednesday, January 27, this “owl drought” would cease, thanks to the arrival of one of these rare birds on a chilly morning, with plenty of quality photos to validate the beautiful bird’s presence.
Manhattan Bird Alert, a self-explanatory Twitter page with over 40,000 followers, tweeted about the appearance of the snowy owl, drawing significant interest from bird watchers and intrigued citizens alike. Hundreds flocked to the park – and continue to do so – in an attempt to catch a glimpse of this scarce creature. Celebrities such as Grammy-winning actor and renowned comedian Steve Martin even arrived at the symbolic park.
While the long-awaited arrival of the snowy owl in Central Park is definitely a marvelous sight, there is unfortunately more somber news that must be addressed with regards to this species. Namely that this family of owls faces a diminishing population, with evidence suggesting that climate change is playing a role in this detrimental phenomenon. In December of 2017, the The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN Red List) categorized the snowy owl as “vulnerable” for the first time, citing population decrease from 300,000 in 2013 to as low as 28,000 today. As the Arctic ice continues to thin, the snowy owl’s prey (small creatures like mice, rabbits, etc.) suffer, and as a result, the snowy owl suffers – this domino effect in a food chain is known as ecological collapse. Pulitzer-prize winning naturalist Scott Weidensaul supports the idea that climate change is at the forefront of the owls’ demise. He explained, “”Many of us who work with snowy owls would argue that they are one of the three or four species at most immediate and direct threat from climate change”.
Ultimately, if we want to continue flocking to parks and other public spaces to cherish nature’s creatures, we must take proper action to ensure that our actions do not continue to harm and destroy ecosystems regularly.
Image credits: https://wallpaperaccess.com/snowy-owl