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Snowy owls flock south to B.C. for rare appearance

Birdwatchers are flocking to Boundary Bay in Metro Vancouver to catch a glimpse of snowy owls, which migrate south only once every four or five years, as the CBC's Renee Filippone reports.

A periodic shortage of prey forces the birds south

Naturalists are concerned that people who flock to see the rarely seen birds could scare them away 2:09

Birdwatchers are flocking to Boundary Bay in Metro Vancouver to catch a glimpse of snowy owls, which migrate south only once every four or five years.

"They are fantastic. They are wonderful," said Anne Murray, a nature writer from Delta, B.C. "Two feet tall, 60 centimeters, the biggest of the North American owls."

The Arctic circle is home to the snowy owl year round, most years, when they feed on the native lemmings.

But every four years or so, the lemming population sees a decline, making food hard to come by.

So the owls leave their arctic home and travel south to places like Boundary Bay or northern California looking for other prey.

But as the CBC’s Renee Filippone reports, some naturalists are concerned that eager photographers are scaring the birds off.