Snowy Owl Discovered Dead In Dockyard

December 21, 2013

[Updated: Dr David Wingate said the owl, who was seen alive yesterday in Dockyard, has died. It was discovered dead this morning laying under a perch in Dockyard.

Dr Wingate said it will be properly autopsied. A preliminary examination showed the bird is not emaciated, so he suspects it might be a victim of “secondary poisoning” from eating rats poisoned by rat poison]

At least one snowy owl was spotted in Bermuda last month, and the bird continues to be seen around the island this month.

Known for making the extreme north [Alaska, Canada etc] their home, it is rare to see a snowy owl any farther south than the northern United States, making this rare appearance in Bermuda especially noteworthy.

However, the trend of snowy owls making their way further south and so far from their natural habitat has lead overseas researchers to  refer to the phenomenon as an “invasion.”

Photo by Andrew Dobson of the owl perched on a Bermuda roof:

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The New York Daily News reported that three snowy owls have been shot at the New York Airport, as officials were concerned about the impact of possible bird strikes on airline safety.

Many people were outraged by the owl killings. An online petition gained more than 11,000 signatures, and airport officials in New York are now starting a program to trap and relocate snowy owls, rather than shoot them.

Local ornithologist Dr. David Wingate once had to shoot a snowy owl that visited the island as the creature was preying on the endangered Cahows.

As he recounts: “This bird turned up in December of 1986 and was first seen by me on the Dockyard jetty. It was my first personal record of a snowy owl. The next time I saw it was in January on the Cahow nesting islets where it had just killed and eaten a Cahow.

“Over the next two months, it lived on the airport and the Cahow islets and killed a total of five Cahows before I managed to shoot it on Nonsuch Island. The remains of the Cahow and the owl specimen are both preserved in the Aquarium museum.

“Needless to say I did not want to have to shoot it, but it was a choice of killing one individual of a fairly common species to save an endangered species under dire threat,” added Dr Wingate. “While I stand by my decision, I was determined to look for an alternate solution if this ever happened again.”

Dr Wingate contacted Norman Smith and set up a plan whereby he will fly to Bermuda and try to trap any future owl that zeroes in on the Cahows. Mr Smith is with the Massachusetts Audubon Society and has been trapping and releasing snowy owls at Boston’s airport since 1981.

The owls are often associated with Harry Potter films, which feature a snowy owl named ‘Hedwig’

According to Dr. Wingate there have been only two records of snowy owls being spotted in Bermuda since 1987. The first was about four years ago when one was photographed on the roof of MSA school by a student, and the second is the one — or perhaps more — that has been spotted around the island in recent weeks.

Dr Wingate said, “At this time, we are unable to say whether those records represent different birds that stayed only briefly or whether it is one bird that is settling in for the winter.”

Update 10.59am: Dr Wingate has just told us that the owl is dead, having been seen alive yesterday, but discovered dead this morning.

He said, “I continued getting reports of the owl roosting on various buildings in Dockyard so yesterday I went up to search for it as I had not yet seen it. It was found roosting on a steel beam…

“I stayed on to watch it until nightfall because I wanted to see it fly off to hunt. During that time hundreds of Dockyard staff and visitors from all walks of life had their attention drawn to it and it became the chief attraction of the day with hundreds of pictures taken of it…

“I stayed on until 7:30pm but was puzzled when it just slept on, so I decided to return first thing this morning. I arrived at 8am and found it gone from that perch, so assumed it had flown off later in the night.

“But moments later Georg Rudolph from the nearby tea room delivered it to me dead but still warm. He had found it dead under the perch at dawn.”

Dr Wingate said it will be properly autopsied to find out for sure. A preliminary examination showed the bird is not emaciated, so he suspects it might be something along the lines of “secondary poisoning” from eating rats poisoned by rat poison.

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  1. Take a look at that picture and you have to admit that this is a beautiful Creation.

  2. Gabbs says:

    That’s Very Sad

  3. VJ says:

    Dr.Wingate,

    Although very sad,thanks for the update. Also, thanks for the clarification on why you shot the owl way back when. From previous negative blogs, I was left with the impression that you shot it for the heck of it. So happy to hear that was not the case, and that you did what you had to do as you had no other options at the time.

  4. mixitup says:

    Poor Snowy :(

  5. swing voter says:

    heaven’t learned that much, that fast, since high school 5th yr biology

  6. John says:

    RIP Hedwig

  7. ganja mon says:

    So let me get this str8. The bird was alive and fine in Bermuda fir nearly a month. The day the doctor goes to pay s visit the bird is found dead the following day and he is suggesting it from eating poisoned rats?

    Things that make you go hmmm…

  8. Charles says:

    Cousin….nooooo!