Rare snowy owl soars over Washington

The nocturnal hunter appears to be feasting on the US capital city's plentiful rodent population

A snowy owl –  apparently touring iconic buildings of the nation’s capital – is captivating birdwatchers who manage to get a glimpse of the rare, resplendent visitor from the Arctic.

Far from its summer breeding grounds in Canada, the snowy owl was first seen on January 3, the day a winter storm dumped eight inches of snow on the city.

With the US Capitol dome as a backdrop, birdwatchers line Columbus Circle in front of Union Station in Washington, Saturday, January.  8, 2022, hoping for a glimpse of a rare snowy owl that has been seen there and around Washington's Capitol Hill neighbourhood. AP

Since then, it’s been spotted in the evenings flying around Washington’s Capitol Hill neighbourhood, landing on Union Station, the National Postal Museum, various Senate buildings, and Capitol Police headquarters.

Late last week about three dozen people in thick coats trained their binoculars on the football-sized bird with bright yellow eyes as it perched on the stone head of Archimedes, a famous ancient Greek mathematician, carved above the train station entrance.

The nocturnal hunter appears to be targeting the city’s plentiful downtown rat population.

“Snowy owls are coming from a part of the world where they see almost nothing human, from completely treeless open Arctic tundra,” said Scott Weidensaul, a researcher at non-profit Project SNOWStorm, which tracks snowy owl movements.

Updated: January 11th 2022, 2:51 PM