Snowy owl leaves Cypress neighborhood after weeks of captivating spectators

Jessica De Nova Image
Friday, January 20, 2023
Snowy owl leaves OC neighborhood after captivating spectators
The celebrity owl left the Cypress neighborhood it chose to roost in, and it also left behind a lot of questions.

CYPRESS, Calif. (KABC) -- Orange County had a surprise visitor last year: a snowy owl who became a celebrity.

The celebrity owl departed the Cypress neighborhood it chose to roost in, and it also left behind a lot of questions.

The streets filled with spectators, photographers and wildlife experts hoping to catch a glimpse of the rare sight. The animal is usually found in the Arctic tundra, but it put on quite a show basking in the Southern California sun. It was last spotted on the rooftops of the community Monday night.

Denver Holt, the founder and president of the Owl Research Institute, was scheduled to give a talk Thursday on snowy owls at the Cypress Community Center.

RELATED: Snowy owl spotted on Orange County rooftop stuns community, draws crowd of spectators

An Orange County neighborhood surrounded by palm trees was stunned by an extremely rare sight: a snowy owl perched on a roof.

"Hopefully she makes it back, maybe to my study area and breeds," Holt said.

Hold said he knew it can fend for itself just fine. He has more than three decades of experience studying the birds in Alaska. He shared a photo with Eyewitness News of him, alongside his colleague, under attack after a father bird decided they were too close to his babies.

"When you get hit by these things, I mean, you can feel it. You get thumped pretty good," Holt said.

Holt said we may never know how this owl made it to Cypress, but perhaps it hitched a ride on a ship or maybe took a migratory flight along the coast.

"It's likely an overshoot. They generally don't go that far south," Holt said.

Holt said he was confident about the sex and age of the owl based off the markings on its feathers.

"It looks like, what I would call, a female. A first-year female and she's probably - she arrived in November - she would've been maybe 5 months old. So now, she's maybe 7 months old or so," Holt said. "She probably hatched in mid-to-late June and this is her first migration south."

Holt was scheduled to elaborate on how he came to this conclusion, his research on snowy owls and their breeding during his talk.

Those attending had a chance to take a closer look at a couple pellets from the O.C. owl. At least one shows she enjoyed a pocket gopher.

"That pocket gopher here is a pretty good size pocket gopher. So at least it's eating pocket gophers. It's probably eating other things," Holt said. "I think there's a photograph of it eating a coot, but the fact that it's here for over a month is a great indication that it's probably doing well."