About the Bird: A denizen of the high Arctic, Snowy Owls are impressive to behold—large, powerful, and with snowy white feathers perfectly evolved to blend in with their icy habitat. Occasionally people as far south as Utah and Washington D.C. will catch a glimpse of one during the winter, when populations irrupt, or sporadically migrate, much farther south than their typical range. The Snowy Owl’s Arctic habitat is especially vulnerable to global warming. If we don’t take action to slow climate change, 93 percent—nearly all—of the icy tundra where the owls nest and breed will become too warm to support them. A large swath of the United States is also projected to become unsuitable for them during the winter, meaning many people will no longer experience the wonder of an irruption.
About the Artist: Mike Fernandez is a filmmaker and photographer based in New York City who strives to build community with his work. He is also the video producer for the National Audubon Society, where he is committed to addressing the diversity gap—principally the lack of people of color and young people—in the environmental field and conservation movement.
Mike has been involved with the Audubon Mural Project since its inception as the person behind the camera documenting the many artists and murals. It’s an initiative he’s thankful to be part of, he says. “As a New York City resident, this is a way to give back to the community, interact with them, laugh, share stories, and share the joy that birds bring to all of us.” And as a LatinX person, originally from Peru, he also has a special appreciation for the spot where he painted his mural of a Snowy Owl. “The Washington Heights neighborhood feels like a special place to me,” he says. “It’s colorful, full of life, and many residents are migrants like myself and birds.”
Video: Mike Fernandez/Audubon
Mike chose his mural subject as an homage to Hedwig, a Snowy Owl that was found injured with a gunshot wound near New York’s La Guardia Airport. A volunteer brought her to the Wild Bird Fund, where Mike photographed the bird. “I was starstruck,” he says, “being in the presence of this magical creature, knowing that we would never cross paths again, that this moment was special. Hedwig spent months in rehab and eventually was released back into the wild.”
Hedwig waiting for her portrait at the Wild Bird Fund. Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon