July 21, 2019
- as seen by -Natalia Hook
The bright pink of a Caribbean flamingo. The majestic roar of an Amur tiger. Or how about the sinewy slither of a king cobra? These are just a handful of the wonders you may encounter at WCS’s Bronx Zoo, home to thousands of animals most people wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to see in the flesh.
But what about the animals that are a little closer to home? Often overlooked, the native species on exhibit at the Bronx Zoo are impressive in their own right. In my opinion, there is no better example of this than at the zoo’s Birds of Prey Aviary.
Our most popular raptors are the bald eagles, Napoleon and Josie. They are truly stunning, not to mention our national bird. But look next door to them, carefully. Up in a tree, or maybe down on the log next to the pool. Who’s that with the mottled white and brown feathers and the bright black eyes? It’s Mr. Snaps, our barred owl (above). And he is beautiful.
The name barred owl (Strix varia) refers to the brown-over-white pattern on the wings and tail. In the US, barred owls are primarily found in the eastern half of the country with populations extending up into and across Canada. They are forest dwellers, and wonderfully well-represented right here in New York, in rural, and even some suburban areas. The barred owl’s “who-cooks-for-you; who-cooks-for-you-all” call is one the most recognized bird vocalizations this side of Mississippi River.
Mr. Snaps has been with us at the Bronx Zoo since 2000, an ambassador for his species, and for all local wildlife. He was injured as an adult in the wild, and although he recovered under a rehabber’s care, he is non-releasable due to his injury. He has adjusted well to his life in the zoo, but still has plenty of vim and vigor, even as a senior owl. “Snaps,” as we like to call him, got his name by clacking his bill at keepers, giving us a warning not to get too close. It’s a reminder to us that local animals are still wild animals. They are just as amazing and just as deserving of respect as their counterparts from around the globe.