Some residents in Springfield enjoyed a rare sighting of a snowy owl on Federal Street Wednesday.
Workers at Merriam-Webster said they noticed the bird of prey when they came to work early Wednesday morning. A custodian said he noticed several crows squawking behind the building, then noticed the owl sitting quietly on a fence.
Several workers took pictures of the bird, which was there for hours.
Wildlife officials from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said it is not uncommon to see the birds in the state, but it is unusual for them to be spotted in inland urban areas. Most sightings in Massachusetts are in coastal regions.
District Supervisor for Connecticut Valley Wildlife District Ralph Taylor said it appeared there was an irruption in the owl population in the Arctic. A lack of food usually sends younger males farther south.
Taylor said there was a large irruption in the winter of 2011/2012 and a smaller one the next year. To have another one three years in a row is not normal. He said the irruption usually happens about every three to four years.
He said residents should keep their distance, especially because the bird was in an urban environment. He was worried the owl could be startled and fly into the path of a vehicle or hit electrical wires.
Taylor said the owl feeds on small rodents like squirrels and small birds. He said the bird could stay for a few hours or more depending on the available food supply.
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