Would an owl by any other name be as white? Name the Lincoln Park Zoo's new snowy owl

January 4, 2012

When I selected today's Daily Photo on the wbez.org homepage, I wasn't sure the photographer was being honest in their mapping. They claimed to have taken this photo at Montrose Harbor.

It all made sense when I got a press release from the Lincoln Park Zoo this afternoon. Apparently wild snowy owls are venturing further south this year in anticipation of a harsh winter.

The email included this quote from Colleen Lynch, Hope B McCormick Curator of Birds at Lincoln Park Zoo: “Snowy owls rarely winter south of the Canadian border except in what we call invasion years. These years are characterized by harsh winters with low rodent populations, driving the owls to venture further south. Luckily the Northern Illinois shoreline is a hotspot for snowy owls in these years."

The occasion for the press release, however, was selecting a name for the new captive snowy owl the Lincoln Park Zoo recently acquired from Seattle. The zoo is asking for community input in choosing the name. The poll is happening on Facebook and there are four names to consider. Here are the options:

Dusty – in reference to the dusty brown coloration that is retained by females for nesting camouflage
Tundra- a nod to the owl’s native habitat
Freya – the Norse goddess of love and beauty
Skaydi– (pronounced like “Katie” with an S) – the Norse goddess of the hunt

Zookeepers narrowed the list down to these four options, for some reason including a lot of Norse names and explicitly excluding the most obvious choice: Hedwig. Perhaps licensing fees prohibited the natural Harry Potter tie-in, but I'm sure there are better choices out there. Weren't there a ton of owl characters in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole? Or maybe the zoo could honor a recent news maker- "Michele Bachmann's Presidential Bid" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Leave your ideas in the comments.