Take a closer look at the rare snowy owl that’s drawn hundreds to a quiet Cypress neighborhood

Closeup of a bird with brown and white feathers, a white face and yellow eyes on a rooftop.
A snowy owl perches on a home in the 11600 block of Onyx Street in Cypress on Friday.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Swarms of bird fanciers have been flocking to a west Orange County neighborhood to ogle a snowy owl. The North Pole native appeared around Christmas Day and hunkered down on a Cypress rooftop, providing photo opportunities that were unusually, almost embarrassingly, comfortable.

A bird with wings spread midair over a rooftop.
The owl flies off the roof of an Orange County home.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Chris Spurgeon with the Pasadena Audubon Society theorizes that the rare avian visitor seldom seen south of the Canadian border was blown thousands of miles off course by a storm or perhaps cruised into the nearby Long Beach/San Pedro port complex on a freighter.


“They’re not supposed to be here — normally they don’t venture farther south than Oregon,” he said, taking stock on a recent afternoon of the nearly 2-foot-tall bird, with its rounded head and piercing yellow eyes.

People, some with very large cameras, stand in a suburban street.
Birdwatchers, some lugging camera equipment, came from throughout Southern California to see the snowy owl in Cypress.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

“Stardom seems to suit him,” Spurgeon said of the Arctic’s largest avian predator, which seemed unruffled by the commotion it was causing on the sidewalk below as birders armed with telephoto lenses and spotting scopes jostled for position.

A white bird sits on a roof; nearby are black birds.
A snowy owl is harassed by crows in Cypress on Friday.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Among the cluster of birdwatchers was photographer Sheila Parker, from the South Bay, who got a call Wednesday from a friend in Pennsylvania telling her that a snowy owl was rumored to have been sighted on top of a house in Cypress.

A snowy owl sits on a rooftop.
A North Pole visitor, the owl began its visit over the Christmas holiday.
(Raul Roa/Los Angeles Times)

“I thought, ‘Well, if I don’t see it with my own eyes, I’ll never know for sure,’” Parker said. “So I packed my camera gear and hit the road.”

Moving closer to capture a few frames worthy of showing to friends, she remarked, “It’s not the rarest bird I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly the most out-of-place one.”