By Molly Daly

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS) — We’re in the midst of an invasion from the Arctic Circle! Snowy Owls are being seen in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

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The birds are showing up in places that look like the tundra:  beaches, farm fields, and airports.

“It seems like somebody’s opened the floodgates, and there are multiple reports, all up and down the east coast, stretching into the midwest,” says American Birding Association president Jeffrey Gordon.

He says it’s not unusual for a few of the big white owls to move south in the winter:

“Sometimes, either the numbers of owls get really high or the numbers of their prey animals, like lemmings, get really low.  And when either or both of those happens, sometimes birds are just forced to go south, looking for food.”

But, he says, this year is different.

“It seems like this could possibly build into one of the biggest invasion years ever for snowy owls,” Gordon tells KYW Newsradio.

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Gordon says you’re likely to see snowy owls perched on a hay bale, or on the ground.  Unlike most owls, they’re active during the day — and Gordon says they’re hard to miss.

“They’re white. And the whitest birds tend to be old males,” he explains.  “And as you get toward females and younger birds, they get more flecked with fine black markings.   They’re just stunning. They’re big and they’re beautiful, and their eyes are this incredible, piercing yellow that can look right through you.”

If you happen to see one, Gordon says to enjoy it — but from a distance.

“You don’t want to approach them.  If they’re hungry, you don’t want to add additional burden to them by making them fly.  So stay back a hundred or two hundred feet, and enjoy them from there.”

And Gordon says you don’t have to be a birder to appreciate them.

“There’s nobody in the world who’s not going to be impressed by the sight of a snowy owl,” he notes.

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