Snowy owls surprise Chinese bird-watchers

Updated: 2014-04-02 08:38

By Wang Ru (China Daily)

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 Snowy owls surprise Chinese bird-watchers

Snowy owls are sighted in Laoting, Hebei province, which scientists say is a rare appearance of the raptor. [Photo provided to China Daily]

It has been over a month since Tian Zhiwei allegedly saw the large, fluffy raptor flying, while it was hunting and living in the woods by the sea.

As a bird-watcher, Tian didn't tell anyone but a few close friends about the rare appearance of the bird until it left.

"I don't want the bird to be disrupted and frightened," Tian says.

In February, Tian, a passionate bird photographer and also an animal protection volunteer in Laoting, Hebei province, who has traveled to many places to watch rare birds, was shocked to see the large bird flying near the sea.

Initially Tian found it hard to believe but soon he recognized the bird as a female snowy owl, the same kind as the one seen in the Harry Potter movies - the letter carrier at Hogwarts. This species is among the largest raptors around.

The average size of an adult snowy owl is 1 meter tall with a 1.5-meter wingspan.

"The species only lives in the far northernmost Heilongjiang province and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in China. It shouldn't be seen here," Tian says.

The coldest February days in Laoting only go as low as - 4 C, but in Heilongjiang it can reach - 40 C. The last recorded sighting of a snowy owl in Hebei was in 1910.

Beijing bird-watcher Li Hai-tao is one of Tian's friends who spotted the female snowy owl.

Having come to Laoting three times, driving more than 2,000 kilometers, Li finally saw the mysterious bird the third time.

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