LAKE ANDES, S.D. — A species of majestic, mostly white owls popularized by Harry Potter is being sighted in abundant numbers this winter far from both Hogwarts and its native Arctic habitat.
Snowy owls typically arrive in the U.S. every three or four winters. This year's irruption is widespread, with birders from the Pacific Northwest to New England reporting frequent sightings of the yellow-eyed birds.
Lemmings are snowy owls' main food source, and a plentiful population of the Arctic rodents this summer led to a strong owl breeding season.
Owl researcher Denver Holt says the baby boom is sending many of the youngsters across the border to scrounge for voles, field mice, rats, rabbits and shore birds.
Snowy owls can top 2 feet in height with a wingspan of nearly 5 feet.