Snowy Owls Charm Town

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 11:23am

Arrival of migrating owls draws visitors to tiny Montana town.

Snowy Owls have migrated from the Arctic to winter in parts of Montana's Mission Valley.

Their arrival has attracted visitors from all over.

With their white plumage, laced with gray, and their golden eyes, it's easy to appreciate their celebrity status.

People just can't seem to get enough of them.

Perched in a tree on a hillside Polson neighborhood, roosts what's most likely a young female, probably hatched last June.

"They are a handsome bird," said Denver Holt. Holt is the director of the Owl Research Institute in Pablo.

He guides a tour of the owl's winter home.

The birds have a view of Flathead Lake from residential rooftops.

"They're probably here for the winter," said Holt. "As long as their food resources are stable." The owls like to eat voles.

Birdwatchers, scientists and photographers are mesmerized.

"You just don't get an opportunity to photograph owls like this," said photographer Steve Akre.

"They're awesome," said neighborhood resident Carter Cutfinger. "I like them."

The owls spend a lot of time on Polson's water towers.

It's not unusual for Snowy Owls to flock to the Mission Valley.

In the winter of 2005 and 2006, 35 owls appeared.

This year, it's estimated there are about 15 or 16 owls in Polson and the Charlo area.

Snowy Owls have been reported from Washington State to New York, and even into Kansas.

"They probably had a really good breeding year based on the numbers of young birds across the United States and Canada," said Holt.

He isn't sure why the owls have migrated so far south, but their visit is making a lot of people happy.

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