Snowy owl, all the way from Arctic, stares down on captivated Washington
The owl has created a sensation among the capital's birdwatchers.
A snowy owl is causing something of a sensation in the nation's capital -- looking down with startling yellow eyes from perches not far from the U.S. Capitol and drawing flocks of amateur wildlife photographers to brave cold, winter nights trying to capture its one-of-a-kind stare.
The owl, predominately native to the Arctic tundra, has curious crowds hoping to spot it around the city, looking down from the heights of Union Station, the National Postal Museum and Capitol Police headquarters.
On Thursday night, the owl struck a picture-perfect pose on an eagle-topped flagpole at Union Station.
The snowy owl's migration patterns often take it south for the winter from its summer breeding grounds in Canada, but the species has rarely been seen as far away as Washington and the surrounding region.
Wildlife experts attribute this abnormal appearance to "irruptive years" -- when young owls migrate farther away than usual, the AP reported.
Matt Felperin, a naturalist from Northern Virginia, told The Washington Post, the owl is "doing marvelously," hunting local vermin populations and "doing us a favor with the rats."
While much is still unknown about how they migrate, said the Owl Research Institute, "One thing we do know, after spending almost 30 years observing them … is that surprises always remain. There is always new behavior to witness, something we've never seen before. So many things that leave us scratching our heads. It's part of what makes the research of these magnificent owls so intriguing, and keeps our work forever humbling."
Washington residents can hope the snowy owl is not an omen of potentially heavy snowfall.
The first sighting on Jan. 3 was followed by eight inches of snow and more is predicted for this weekend.
ABC News' Libby Cathey contributed to this report.