Majestic visitors have been gracing the local landscape in and around Utica lately. If you ask, "who?" you'd be right. The snowy owls are heading south from the Arctic in greater-than-usual numbers, in what's known as an irruption, which is cyclical and occurs every three to five years, when there's a large amount of young, who are then pushed south in search of food. They've been spotted in recent weeks on Utica's arterial, and on a median just a few feet from traffic, in Ilion.
"They will perch for hours on a fence post, a roof of a barn or a low building like that just watching for a mouse top come by," said Deb Saltis, who is rehabbing the male owl spotted in Ilion recently. "We will be seeing a lot of snowys this year."
But Saltis wants to stress-just because the search for food sometimes lands the birds in populated areas, that doesn't mean they want to visit with you. The birds arrive exhausted, starving and weak.
"If we continue to disturb them, we can disturb a bird to the point of stressing it to death," cautions Saltis, who suggests staying at least 20 to 25 feet from the feathered beauties. "If they are tired and that's their last bit of energy is to fly and it's not used to get some food, you're just weakening the bird further."
Saltis is rehabilitating the snowy owl found in Ilion, helping him heal from a wing injury.
"He is a sweetheart and a half. He's quite feisty and wants to be back out in the wild," says Soltis. She hopes the bird will be strong enough to be released in the next few weeks, but will make sure he can fly comfortably before that happens.