New Brunswick

Whooooo wants fries?: Snowy owl spotted in McDonald's parking lot

A St. George man has become the envy of New Brunswick bird watchers after a snowy owl perched in front of his truck while he ate a Junior Chicken in the fast food giant’s parking lot.

Owl lands in front of man eating fast-food meal in Saint John lot

Josh Comeau was eating a Junior Chicken around 1:15 a.m., when a snowy owl landed in front of his car at a McDonald's in Saint John. (Josh Comeau)

A St. George man has become the envy of New Brunswick birdwatchers after a snowy owl perched in front of his truck while he ate a Junior Chicken outside a McDonald's in Saint John.

Josh Comeau, who stopped by the fast food restaurant on Main Street late Friday night, after visiting a friend, said he heard a loud "whoosh."

At first thinking it was just a gull, Comeau went back to his meal, only to discover a short time later that a snowy owl had landed in front of him.

"I heard big flapping, looked again and there was the big snowy owl, just sitting there chilling," he said. "It was bobbing its head around.

Comeau sits on the same perch the owl settled on. The only other time the St. George man saw one of the birds was in a zoo. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Comeau said the only other time he's seen one of the owls was in the zoo.

He sat fewer than 2½ metres away from where the bird was perched calmly in front of him. Comeau continued to watch it for about 10 minutes, snapping a few photos from his truck in between bites of his meal.

After posting the photos on Facebook, he shared them with the New Brunswick Birders page.

Those pictures have been shared hundreds of times, and Comeau has been responding to many of the dozens of comments from envious birders.

"People really appreciate it," Comeau said, "because they like to see different birds that they don't get to see all the time."

Afraid he would scare off the nocturnal bird, Comeau took several photos out his car window before the owl flew off. (Josh Comeau)

New Brunswick birder Jim Wilson said the sighting may be one of the first of a snowy owl in the province this year.

A McDonald's might seem a strange place to find one, but Wilson said the owls have been known to come to the city.  

"It's fairly early in the fall to have one," he said. "These birds normally come down a bit later — December, January sometimes."

Wilson said it's common to see snowy owls in the winter in Saint John, usually on the waterfront around Tin Can Beach or the potash terminals.

"Some years these birds come down in quite [the] numbers, and other years they're quite scarce," he said.

Good place to grab a meal

The Bay of Fundy, said Wilson, can attract the birds because the area can be good for their need to catch an easy meal.

"They come from the tundra looking for food and they'll take whatever they can get in the coldest of winter," he said.

Because snowy owls come from the Far North, they likely don't see many humans until they migrate. This bird in particular, he said, was probably establishing a hunting territory in the city.

Regardless of where the raptor plans to hunt or whether it intends to survive on french fries, Comeau said he feels incredibly lucky to spot one.

"Never thought I would see anything like it," he said.


Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.