Migratory Birds

A Snowy Owl Whooo Flew to LA

The incredible migration ecology of Snowy Owls

A Snowy Owl sits on the tundra of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS
Recently hatched Snowy Owlets snuggle up close in their tundra ground nest. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS
A large white bird flys against the blue sky with its wings spread wide
A Snowy Owl takes flight over head. Photo by Luke DeCicco/USFWS

A Declining Icon

Snowy Owls are listed as a Bird of Conservation Concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This list identifies the migratory and non-migratory bird species (beyond those already designated as federally threatened or endangered) that represent our highest conservation priorities. The Snowy Owl is also listed worldwide as ‘Vulnerable’ and ‘Decreasing’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with some of its threats ranging from disturbance, climate change , shooting, trapping, and poisoning.

A large white bird sits on the ground with snow capped mountains in the background
A Snowy Owl sits perched on the tundra of St. Lawrence Island. Photo by Tamara Zeller/USFWS

Respecting the Great White Owl

Luckily, the LA Snowy Owl appears to be doing well, and people are enjoying this bird from a respectable distance. Like all migratory birds, Snowy Owls are a federally protected species and disturbing them in any way, taking pellets, feathers, or other parts is illegal without a proper permit. If you ever come across an owl, be sure to follow these rules to ensure an enjoyable experience for both you and the bird.

  • Keep a respectful distance. In general, if it reacts to your presence you’re too close.
  • Don’t flush it, this interferes with its roosting and foraging behavior, and deprives others of the opportunity to view the bird.
  • Watch from your car if safe and possible.
  • Move slowly and keep your voice down.
  • View with the wind in your face. Birds prefer to take off into the wind, this way if it chooses to fly it will not want to fly toward you.
  • Don’t lure or feed a wild owl to get a closer look.
  • Never use a drone near an owl.
  • Always respect private property and area-closed signs.
A Snowy Owl feather lies on the grassy tundra of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS



Stories from Alaska by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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