Snowy owl drops in for brief visit at air base

03dsn outdoors snowy owl by .

A snowy owl has been grabbing the attention of visitors to the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover. He was spotted Saturday in front of the SATCOM antenna on the C-5 in the museum’s air park. (Air Mobility Command Museum)

DOVER — The Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Bad had an unlikely visitor this past weekend.

A snowy owl was seen perched atop one of the aircrafts, and this isn’t the first time the birds have landed at the museum.

“A few years ago we saw five of them at a time,” said museum director Mike Leister.

“When we spotted it, we noticed that it wasn’t an adult owl. It’s a young bird. We saw it twice so far.”

The largest (by weight) North American owl shows up in central Delaware irregularly in winter to hunt in windswept fields or dunes.

Mr. Leister said as soon as they posted the picture on the museum’s Facebook page on Saturday people came out immediately to try to get a glimpse of the owl.

“We got 3,000 hits on that picture,” Mr. Leister said. “The bird seems to be pretty popular especially for people who are bird-watchers.

“They come in and we take them to our control tower, which kind of gives them a bird’s-eye point of view,” Mr. Leister said of the bird-watchers. “They appreciate it a lot.”

Snowy owls are used to the barren tundra of their normal Arctic home, so when they do make a move they tend to hang out in wide open flat spaces, where they can quickly and easily see their next meal, said Anthony Gonzon, Division of Fish & Wildlife Biodiversity Program manager.

“We don’t see them often in Delaware, but when we do they are usually the younger birds,” Mr. Gonzon said.

“When they’re in the Arctic they start to wander around and try to find food. Sometimes there are an abundance of them, which may cause it to be difficult for all the snowy owls to get food.

“That may cause them to wander south to either find food,” he said, “or it may be due to other conditions.”

Most of the owls’ hunting is done in the “sit and wait” style, as prey may be captured on the ground or in the air. Using their sharp talons, they may snatch fish off the surface of bodies of water.

Mr. Leister said that airports are the ideal places for the owls to appear.

“They like air fields,” Mr. Leister said. “They’re flat and they’re able to perch on the higher views to try and catch their prey.

“I think the Philadelphia Airport had a problem with them at one point because they can be a hazard to the aircraft.”

As for how long the owl will linger, Mr. Gonzon isn’t sure.

“I don’t know if it’s still going to be around,” Mr. Gonzon said. “At this point it may have headed to another location.”

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