The strange journey of the arctic owls that landed in Spain

The Principality of Asturias in northwestern Spain has two new, very recognizable neighbors for experts in birds of prey or Harry Potter fans. It is a pair of snowy or Arctic owls, two white specimens with some black spots and large amber eyes, who since last weekend have been spotted in the Gozón area, a coastal area near Cape Peñas.

These animals live in ecosystems very different from that of Asturias, with ornithologists and specialists wondering how they have been able to reach these latitudes. Curious people from all over Spain have now come to Asturias to see the owls for themselves.

The first sighting of one of them occurred last Saturday, and immediately the photos and information began to flow through social networks and telephones, to the point that it has attracted the attention of the media.

The two owls have become accustomed to the Asturian environment and maintain their twilight hunting routines. The owl’s normal habitat is the tundra – a polar region of low vegetation – either in Greenland, northern Europe, or North America. Since the birds are not great migrants, the thought is that they may have rested on a boat to get this far south.

Doctor of biology and head of species conservation at SEO / BirdLife Nicolás López explains that the southernmost latitudes that snowy owls can frequent never go beyond the north of the United Kingdom or Scandinavia.
López says that the boat theory is more than sensible, given that all kinds of birds, including griffon vultures, often stop on ships that cross the Strait of Gibraltar heading for the African heat.

The belief is that the birds will use their time in Asturias to feed and gain weight before attempting to follow their instincts and make the grueling trip back north. In the meantime, they ask that people respect the birds and leave them alone.

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