The elusive snowy owl, rarely seen outside the Arctic, is turning up more frequently in the skies of North America than it does in the pages of a Harry Potter book, data from the National Audubon Society suggested on Wednesday.

Sightings of the majestic raptors, popularized by the owl Hedwig in author J.K. Rowling's fantasies and the films based on them, could eclipse last season's record when the final tally is in, according to preliminary data from the society's 114th Christmas bird count.

The society is not expected to release the total until June. It needs to analyze data from an estimated 2,400 counting sessions by teams of volunteers from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. The countings took place in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean and some South Pacific islands.