Jennifer Heroux-Flathen spotted this snowy owl outside her North Delta home. A number of other residents had also seen snowy owls in the neighbourhood. (Jennifer Heroux-Flathen photo)

Jennifer Heroux-Flathen spotted this snowy owl outside her North Delta home. A number of other residents had also seen snowy owls in the neighbourhood. (Jennifer Heroux-Flathen photo)

Snowy owls spotted in North Delta

These arctic visitors may seem rare, but they are actually common visitors to Canada’s south

Perched on a rooftop, just visible from Jennifer Heroux-Flathen’s suburban backyard, a snowy owl sat quietly.

Heroux-Flathen’s school-age daughter was home sick with the flu on Tuesday, Feb. 6. She was the one who saw the owl, enjoying a rest during the overcast mid-morning.

“She came and got me, ‘Mommy, mommy there’s an owl in the back yard,’” Heroux-Flathen said laughing.

“I thought she was joking.”

They sat watching the owl for around an hour, and although the neighbourhood family of crows wasn’t very happy, Heroux-Flathen certainly was.

“It’s a stunning thing to see,” she said.

“It’s so rare. I’ve never seen that before.”

Heroux-Flathen’s new neighbour was one of Delta’s visiting snowy owls, a northern species known best for its quiet hunting over snowy ground and its role as Hedwig Harry Potter’s pet, and it wasn’t the first spotted in North Delta over the past few months.

One, possibly a male judging from the light brown flecks on its wings, was seen relaxing in a tree by the North Delta post office in late January.

And there were two sightings of what may have been the same female only four days apart in early February in the area of 116th Street and 90th Avenue.

According to Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) raptor manager Rob Hope, it’s not as rare as people might think to see these northern hunters so far south.

Every four or five years, young owls migrate south to feed, sometimes travelling as far as Oregon or California. Hope said it has been six years since significant numbers of owls were seen in Delta.

“Normally they’re found on the foreshore of Delta,” around Boundary Bay and Brunswick Point, he said. “But this year there’s only been a few there spotted.”

That means those owls have been striking out and venturing into more urban areas like Burnaby, Surrey and, of course, North Delta.

And the only reason they would be in those areas, Hope said, is for food.

Heroux-Flathen’s snowy owl was likely hunting when she spotted it on the neighbouring rooftop.

Snowy owls hunt during the day, unlike other owls which wait for the cover of night.

During their southern stays they feed primarily on small mammals (ranging in size from mice to jackrabbits) and other birds (including everything from sparrows to ducks to pheasants).

Their native tundra habit has few trees, making them more likely to sit on a rooftop or fence and search for prey, Hope said. When they see a target, they swoop down from their perch and swallow the meal whole.

Snowy owls migrate because the warmer climates makes it easier to find food — especially when it can be hidden under several feet of snow. But that doesn’t make these migrations a tropical holiday.

Often, birds will arrive in Delta starving and weary after their long travels.

The change in climate from a cold, dry area to a warm, moist one can also spur fungal infections that attack their organs.

To keep the birds healthy, Hope recommends viewers keep the birds’ stress to a minimum.

“If somebody’s got it in their backyard, take pictures, but you don’t want 50 people showing up, harassing the bird to try and get a picture,” he said. “That’s more stress they don’t need.

“And if they just let them do their natural thing, they will be fine. They’ll find enough food and probably in another month or so they’ll start to head back north.”



grace.kennedy@northdeltareporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Police called to Surrey home for report of weapon, man taken into custody

Surrey RCMP say people evacuated from house, one found in a bedroom ‘hiding from police’

Students at Creekside Elementary in Surrey wrote letters to seniors over the holidays, and are planning to write more for Valentine’s Day and Family Day. (Photo: surreyschools.ca)
Surrey elementary students connect with seniors through letter writing

Creekside students planning to send more cards for Valentine’s Day

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

Johnston Heights Secondary in Surrey. (Image: Google Street View)
Surrey school district getting second International Baccalaureate diploma program

New program to start at Johnston Heights in September

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment Mission, has break-out year

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Giants defenceman Bowen Byram has recorded his first NHL career point (Rob Wilton/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants Bowen Byram records first NHL career point with Colorado Avalanche

Player with Langley-based WHL franchise assisted on goal against the Ducks

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Most Read