A snowy owl was seen in Central Park in New York City on Jan. 27, 2021.
© REBECCA DEPORTE
A snowy owl was seen in Central Park in New York City on Jan. 27, 2021.
Becky DePorte was about 45 minutes outside the city when she got the text from a friend last Wednesday: A snowy owl was in Central Park.

DePorte - an avid bird-watcher - was then unaware a sighting of the owl hadn't been reported in Central Park in 130 years. At the time, she was in Rockefeller State Park Preserve with a friend who was looking for a pileated woodpecker, a bird she had seen plenty of times growing up in rural Pennsylvania.

"I really didn't care about a pileated woodpecker," she said. So she hopped in an Uber, and "$60 and 45 minutes later, I was back in Central Park running to the ballfield with my camera."

"I was so happy" as she snapped photos of the bird, DePorte added. "It was the best, most unusual spotting I had had."



Snowy owls can be spotted every year during the winter months around the Great Lakes and Northeast. Some years, however, there are large irruption events when many birds come down from the Arctic and can be more widely spotted. In some of the rarest of cases, they have been reported in Florida and Bermuda.

A week later, the rare event happened again, with social media reports from the popular Manhattan Bird Alert Twitter account documenting another sighting of a snowy owl in Central Park on Wednesday.

It wasn't clear whether it was the same owl, but experts said before the second spotting that it was possible another one could come back to the area soon.

"It could be next year if you have a big irruption year," said Denver Holt, founder and president of the Owl Research Institute who has been studying snowy owls in Alaska for nearly 30 years.

It's just as likely that another snowy owl appears in Central Park tomorrow as it is that another documented case doesn't occur again for another 130 years, said Scott Weidensaul, author of a forthcoming book on bird migration, "A World On The Wing," who co-founded Project SNOWstorm to tag and track snowy owls and study their movements.

"They're just really unpredictable," Weidensaul said.

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