A Surprise Visit From a Snowy Owl

This fall, a snowy owl made its way from the Arctic to Seattle. 

A majestic snowy owl has left its habitat in the Arctic and made its way to the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. This large, female bird has been spotted on various rooftops and tall trees in the area. Many Queen Anne residents have come to see and take pictures of the bird. I recently spoke with spectators and a bird expert from Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.

Most of the people I interviewed had never seen a snowy owl before. This was the first time, in fact, that they had seen such a rare bird. When asked why the bird have come to Queen Anne, Jun Pua said, “I think the snowy owl is here for food and shelter.”

Mila Seavey, 11, and Thor Oakland, 9, thought that maybe the Queen Anne neighborhood offered a nice place for the owl to take a winter nap. 


Zoe talks with Kevin Murphy, Woodland Park Zoo’s animal curator, from her home in Seattle. 


Snowy owls do not migrate. Rather, they arrive in unpredictable spurts known as irruptions. In a recent interview with Kevin Murphy, Woodland Park’s animal curator, I learned that irruptions are similar to migrations. But an irruption is not done in a rigid pattern. It can change yearly based on food and habitat. I also learned that snowy owls can lay up to 12 eggs a year depending upon the amount of available food.

The snowy owl that arrived in Seattle is a female based on the brown markings on her feathers, which she uses as camouflage in her natural habitat. Male snowy owls are pure white.

Snowy owls are considered vulnerable and thus protected by the government. Murphy offered this advice for kids who want to help the owls: “Kids can help protect snowy owls by spreading awareness and creating conversations.”

Murphy also said that visitors should be respectful of snowy owls, whether in Seattle or a wildlife setting. “When going to see the snowy owl make sure that you aren’t stressing the owl out,” he said, “and keep a distance from it.” 

The Queen Anne neighbors have been incredibly respectful of this majestic owl, which Mila and Thor have nicknamed “Silverhead.” We're grateful that Silverhead has brought a little cheer into our lives during the pandemic.


Zoe talks with other young people about the snowy owl visiting her neighborhood in Seattle. 

Top photo: Jun Pua; other photos courtesy of the author