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Birders flock to look at visiting snowy owl

Date12/19/2013
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LITTLE ROCK – A single snowy owl, most unusual in Arkansas, is drawing birders to the Port of Little Rock area.

Karen Rowe, nongame migratory bird coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish commission, said, “About two weeks ago, Lenord Vaughn, an employee at LM Wind Power in Little Rock, noticed a large white bird on the supports that hold the turbine blades. He didn't know the identity of the bird or how unusual its’ presence in Arkansas was until he watched a Public Broadcasting Service special on snowy owls.”

The bird has moved around the immediate area but appears to be tolerant of visitors peering at long range through binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras. It has been spotted perched on the large turbine blades at the factory near the Little Rock Port Authority and the airport.

Rowe said, “Knowing that birders searching for the snowy owl, as well as merlins and other winter birds using the area, would need to access the area behind the ‘authorized personnel only signs,’ I spoke to the Little Rock Port Authority executive director. He said that he appreciated the heads up and that as long as birders stayed on the paved roads and left the area by 5 p.m. when the gates were locked, they were welcome to bird the area.”

Snowy owls live in the far north of Canada, Russia and other Arctic countries. Only a handful of sightings have been reported in the past in Arkansas, including two years ago when the owls were also seen in Texas, Georgia and several other states.

The snowy owl is Quebec’s provincial bird.