Snowy Owl Spotted
Inside the Outdoors, March 23
, 2012

A gent visited my home recently to state that he had seen some white owls recently and wanted to know more about them. I asked him to describe them a little more so that when I called the Pennsylvania Game Commission in Bolivar, I could pinpoint just what he was describing.

Here is what the middle-aged Latrobe resident said. “You know, lately I have been seeing some white owls around here that I’ve never seen before. Aren’t they extinct?”

We both had a good laugh over that, because he later realized what he meant to say was that these birds were “endangered.” Extinct would mean that they are not only not around but dead, never to return. Endangered means that they are protected until the population of a certain kind of wildlife grows and are no longer limited in numbers.

Anyway, a little bit about this bird of prey. What captured his attention was a snowy owl. According to the PGC, these birds are “rare and irregular visitors to the Keystone State. They show up mainly from November to January. If food is scarce on the arctic tundra, large numbers may migrate south. Owl migrations usually occur at four or five year intervals.”

The PGC describes the bird as having white barred grayish-brown plumage. Its feet and legs are heavily feathered. Having lot of feathers keeps the bird warm, particularly during the winter.

Its food usually consists of mice, ground squirrels, rats, rabbits and hares.

The snowy owl usually hunts during twilight, however in the Commonwealth, it looks for food during the daylight.

“The snowy owl is as large as the great horned owl,” so states the PGC, “with a 24-inch body length, a 60 inch wingspan and body weight up to five pounds.”

Another Latrobe resident told me she sighted one sitting in a tree in her backyard.

Oh, and by the way, this bird is not on the endangered list.

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Speaking of birds, one of my teenage friends approached me a couple of weeks ago and advised me of what he described as a chicken hawk. A few weeks back I had talked about the Cooper’s Hawk that I came upon on Walnut St. After talking to the avian ecologist at Powdermill Nature Reserve, he told me about a number of hawks in the area, but nothing about a chicken hawk. After he pointed it out to me, I concluded we were looking at a snowy owl in Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. There is no such thing as a chicken hawk that I know of.

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Got a phone call from a gent who lives out on the edge of town. He claimed that bucks have been showing up on his property with very large antlers. “Since we had an uncommon winter with high temperatures, I guess the deer won’t lose their antler’s this year,” he said.

I contacted Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor for the PGC. He told me the deer will most certainly lose their antlers. “The time varies,” he said, but they will eventually fall off.” I guess the old saying applies – “Time will tell.”

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I received a notification about a gun bash the Forbes Trail Chapter of Ducks Unlimited is holding in North Huntingdon. The donation is $5. For further information, one may call Glenn Merlin at 724-863-3001. Tell him you saw the write-up in my column.

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It’s always exciting to know people are reading my column. As a result, recently, I received an email from Randy Sanner who stated, “I read your articles on the eagles. I see a few every year around Loyalhanna Creek and toward Mammoth Park,” he said

He added, “Another type of raptor we have is the American Kestrel out toward Loyalhanna Post Office. I have been watching a pair of them nesting here in the summer for the past few years. They are beautiful birds.” Thanks, Randy. I appreciate your comments.

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And last but not least, Connie from Loyalhanna Trading Post on Rt. 30, stated that anglers are “catching trout like crazy on minnows out at Twin Lakes.” So, go for it. You’ve got until the end of the month.


- Paul J. Volkmann
Contact me by email

To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-8850.