SCHENECTADY — A rare winter visitor presented itself at Mohawk Harbor on Tuesday, flying in and roosting on an apartment terrace.
It’s a snowy owl, a creature of the arctic that periodically makes its way south for the winter. They don’t migrate to New York every year, according to the Audubon Society of the Capital Region, but when they do, they can venture quite a distance from the tundra where they normally live and hunt — even well south of the Capital Region, to places without any snow.
The rental management staff at the River House apartment building noticed the owl Tuesday, and grabbed a quick picture of it before it flew on to its next destination.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology ranks the snowy owl as the largest North American owl, by weight. In its arctic hunting grounds, they eat any smaller birds and rodents they can catch, but their preferred meal is the lemming. The two species are so intertwined that snowy owls will lay more eggs in years when the lemming population is peaking and fewer in years when the lemming population crashes.
Its normal winter range is southern Canada and the northernmost United States. But in some winters, it may be spotted throughout the northern half of the continental United States.