Watch CBS News

Birdwatchers flock to Cypress to sneak a peek at rare snowy owl

Crowd continues to grow as birders take rare opportunity to observe snowy owl in Cypress
Crowd continues to grow as birders take rare opportunity to observe snowy owl in Cypress 02:05

Birdwatchers flocked to Cypress to catch a glimpse of a rare sight, as a snowy owl made a pit stop in one neighborhood on Wednesday. 

Traditionally found in more arctic areas like the tundra, snowy owls are exceedingly scarcely seen as less then 30,000 are believed to remain across the world. 

"I consider it an honor to be able to see the bird," said Rob Young, who works with Santa Ana River Wildlife, just one of the many people who gathered in the Cypress neighborhood to admire the majestic bird. "Kinda put a feather in my cap so to speak, no pun intended."

According to some familiar with the situation, the bird has been seen multiple times in recent days, flying from one rooftop to another in the area near the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos. 

Kasia Obrzut, a birder who made her way to the neighborhood early Wednesdays, says anytime there's a rare opportunity like this she has to take advantage. 

"Not supposed to be down in this area, so whenever there's things that are not in the area we like to go chase them," she said. 

Some even traveled up from San Diego County to take a look, including Jenna Asperslag. 

"I think I'd heard about it yesterday and was kinda hesitant to come up because I didn't want to mob the owl, but I decided to make a quick trip," she said. 

Birdwatchers flock to Cypress for chance to check out rare snowy owl 02:25

Some neighbors took the situation in stride, as well as exhibited a little holiday spirit, laying out a carpet for watchers and a table with coffee and water. 

Experts say that the birds appearance in Southern California is a mystery, especially due to the drastic difference from its traditional habitat. 

"The only think it has to worry about here is there's a lot more potential damage," said local veterinarian Scott Weldy, who said he's never heard of this specific bird flying so far south. "There are a lot more cars. We have power lines, the windmills. We have tons of things that traumatize flying birds here in Southern California."

While they continue to monitor the bird's time in the Southland, birdwatchers are just happy to be able to take advantage of the seemingly once-in-a-century sighting. 

"My understanding is this is the first time since approximately 1928," Young said. "Some people are saying 100 years."

Crowds continued to grow on Thursday, with dozens of people gathered near the home where the owl was perched, just a few spots over from the roof it was settled on Wednesday. 

"I'm not a birder by trade, but I do know it's a rare sight and it's pretty exciting to be here," said Larry Hack, a local photographer. 

Along with more spectators, additional wildlife experts also made their way to observe the bird in a different fashion, wondering if it could be injured or unable to fly for various reasons. 

"The first thing I'm noticing is the tail feathers are frayed," said Dr. Elizabeth Wood, with the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center. "So, that can indicate that the bird has been grounded for quite some time. It may just be from the days that it's been on these roofs, but that can affect flight."

"The best thing we can do is not capture or disturb it if it doesn't need anything," said Debbie McGuire, the former Director of the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center. "We can do more harm than good if the capture went wrong."

Researchers were able to obtain droppings from the owl over the weekend, running a series of tests on the owl's pellets in hopes of getting a better picture of the bird's health. 

"We are pleased to report that the Snowy Owl appears to be doing very well," McGuire reported in a press release. "The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center staff collected one of its pellets from a rooftop yesterday and examined it."

"It's clearly hunting and eating well," the release said. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.