Rare arctic creature visiting a California suburb draws crowds hoping to catch a glimpse

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Once quiet neighborhood streets are now lined with excited spectators — some from out of state — who hope for their chance to catch a glimpse of an unexpected visitor.

“People have come from out of state,” one TikToker said. “Why? There’s an owl on a roof…?”

A snowy owl perches on the top of a chimney of a home in Cypress, Calif., on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 27, as bird watchers and photographers gather on the street below to see the very unusual sight. (Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register via AP)A snowy owl perches on the top of a chimney of a home in Cypress, Calif., on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 27, as bird watchers and photographers gather on the street below to see the very unusual sight. (Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register via AP)

A snowy owl perches on the top of a chimney of a home in Cypress, Calif., on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 27, as bird watchers and photographers gather on the street below to see the very unusual sight. (Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register via AP)

The snowy owl’s presence in a neighborhood outside of Los Angeles, however, has perplexed wildlife experts and bird enthusiasts alike.

Eve Bradford, a digital artist on TikTok, documented the line of cars up and down a residential street and estimated a crowd of more than 100 people gathered to photograph and observe the owl as it perched on the roof of a house in Cypress, about 25 miles south of L.A. Many spectators shown in the video were equipped with long telephoto lenses.

Another user explained why the owl’s presence is so significant.

“To those that don’t know, this is a very rare ARCTIC SNOW OWL, that’s now all the way down in CA,” the user wrote.

Someone else speculated that perhaps the arctic blast of cold air “tricked him into going too … far south.”

“They’re most common in very, very North Canada,” Jaret Davey told CNN.

He’s a wildlife technician and volunteer coordinator at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, the outlet reported.

“The southern limit of their winter range is in the northern United States,” he told the news outlet. “So it’s not uncommon for them to be in Washington or Minnesota or Maine in the winter. But to be this far south is really exceptional.”

Especially in winter, according to the National Audubon Society. The snowy owl’s unique mottled white appearance camouflages it during northern winters, according to the society’s website. During the summer, snowy owls can be nomadic, nesting where its prey of small rodents called lemmings are plentiful.

California’s Audubon society also chimed in on Twitter.

“Have you heard about the rare #SnowyOwl in Cypress near Los Angeles? Birders are flocking to catch a glimpse of this large, powerful owl from the Arctic tundra. Spotting one as far south as Orange County is extremely rare,” the group said on Twitter.

Photographers and bird enthusiasts shared their images — and their awe on social media.

“I took way too many photos of this gorgeous owl, but it was worth it,” one wrote on Twitter with a heart-eyes emoji. “When am I ever going to see a Snowy Owl against palm trees again?”

“It’s the last thing on Earth you’d expect to see there,” David Bell told SFGate. He’s a board member of the Los Angeles Birders, and he joined the groups flocking to Cypress to catch sight of the bird last month, the outlet reported. “You’re thinking to yourself that it couldn’t possibly be real, and then it swivels its head. Yep, it’s real.”

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