The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

January 20, 2014

Rare avian visitor attracts fans from around area to Beckley

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

— A snowy owl has been visiting the Beckley area recently, which Ron Perrone, education director at Three Rivers Avian Center, says is a rare sight.

He said snowy owls typically travel south from their normal arctic habitat each winter to a certain degree, but this year there has been an “irruption” of many of these birds traveling south.

“My hypothesis is there is a food problem in their normal hunting range and they are coming south for more food.”

Sightings of snowy owls have been reported as far south as Kentucky, North Carolina and even Florida, which Perrone said is unusual. He said he has only ever seen two snowy owls in his life.

“It’s fun to see and we’ve been encouraging people to go check it out.”

A number of individuals and groups from around southern West Virginia have traveled to Beckley in hopes of catching a glimpse of the unusual visitor.

The Beckley owl appears to be an adult male in winter plumage, Perrone said.

Snowy owls stand nearly 2 feet tall. In the arctic, they feed primarily on lemmings and other small rodents, and occasionally prey on other birds such as ptarmigans.

—  Wendy Holdren