Category Archives: Owls

Burrowing Owl #2

Following on from my first blog, Burrowing Owl #1, the excitment continued as I photographed these comical little characters for a day-and-a-half while I waited for Maria and the kids to fly in from Copenhagen.

Burrowing Owl 4

Like a lot of owl species, the Burrowing owl is a fierce looking little guy and a firm defender of territory. They are so fearless it is possible to get within a few metres, so with a little patience (and the right light conditions) I felt confident I could get some good images.

Burrowing Owl 2

Now for the facts:

As can be seen from the images, the Burrowing owl is a small, long-legged owl found in grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas, deserts, or any other open dry area with low vegetation. They nest and roost in burrows, such as those excavated by prairie dogs or ground squirrels. As stated above, the Burrowing Owls are often active during the day, although they tend to avoid the midday heat. But like many other kinds of owls, burrowing owls do most of their hunting from dusk until dawn. Living in open grasslands, the Burrowing owl has developed longer legs, which enables it to sprint as well as fly when hunting.

Burrowing Owl 3

Adults have brown heads and wings with white spotting. The chest and abdomen are white with variable brown spotting or barring, also depending on the subspecies. Juvenile owls are similar in appearance, but they lack most of the whit spotting above and brown barring below. Although I could hear the juveniles calling from the burrows they never appeared above ground, so I may have been a week or two early before they fledged.

Males and females are similar in size and appearance, and display little sexual dimorphism. Adult males appear lighter in color than females because they spend more time outside the burrow during daylight, and their feathers become “sun-bleached”, this was the case for the owls I photographed, where I mainly saw two males, with occasional sightings from one female.

The burrowing owl measures 19–28 cm (7.5–11.0 in) long, spans 51–61 cm (20–24 in) across the wings. As a size comparison, an average adult is slightly larger than an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) or the Common Blackbird (Turdus turdus) of Europe.

Before European colonisation, burrowing owls probably inhabited every suitable area of the New World, but in North America they have experienced some restrictions in distribution since. In parts of South America they are expanding their range, one bonus from deforestation.

Burrowing Owl 1

In North America the Burrowing Owl range from the southern portions of the western Canadian provinces through southern Mexico and western Central America. They are also found in Florida and many Caribbean islands. In South America, they are patchy in the northwest and through the Andes, but widely distributed from southern Brazil to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.

The burrowing owl is endangered in Canada, threatened in Mexico, and a species of special concern in Florida and most of the western USA. However, the Burrowing Owl is fairly common and widespread in open regions of the Neo-tropics and area’s bordering the Amazon Rainforest. Due to this the Burrowing Owl is of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

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Burrowing Owl #1

I have had a fascination with owls for many years, and I am sure I am not the only one. They are mysterious and most species often never seen, or at least not seen clearly or mostly in the dark. One owl species of interest to me is the Burrowing owl, an owl that is often active during the day and thus can be found more reliably. However, the Burrowing owl is decreasing in numbers mainly due to habitat loss, especially in it’s western ranges in the USA, so extensive research is needed to find and track them. Before our summer vacation to the West coast of the USA, I did some research and found a reliable site just over an hour inland from San Francisco. Unfortunately this site was not accessible due to the suspicious death of a pair of owls when a drinking bottle seemed to have been purposely been pushed into the entrance of a breeding burrowing! After more extensive research during my NY business trip I found a second possible location, so this was going to be the chosen location. 

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The search began after a late and delayed flight into San Francisco from New York and an arrival at the hotel at 2 a.m. The late arrival did not deter me and I was up bright and early after a “solid” 3 1/2 hours sleep. After driving for approx half-an-hour I arrived at the “hotspot” and set about locating the owls. Wandering around down a couple of tracks for a couple of hours resulted in no sighting, but then out of the corner of my eye, there hiding in the longish grass was my first Burrowing owl.

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 To be continued………………………..

The Church Owl

The Little Owl (Athene noctua) is a bird which is resident in much of the temperate and warmer parts of Europe, Asia east to Korea, and north Africa. The photographs below were taken in the UK, but the Little Owl is not native to the UK, it was first introduced in 1842 and is now naturalised.

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The RSPB estimate there are more than 6,000 pairs in the UK. This is fascinating for me as here in Denmark we also have some fantastic farmland (the Little Owls prefered habitat) yet there are only a handful of breeding pairs. Small in size, but not in character, the Little Owl is a small owl, some 23-27 cm in length.

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In Danish the name is “kirkeugle” translating to Church Owl. This is often a view shared across Europe due to the Little Owls penchant for churchyards. The “most famous” pair in Denmark “live” opposite a churchyard in the farmlands of Jutland.

Remarkably the above two photographs are of the same bird, the photographs were taken approximately two hours apart in the usual unpredictable English weather.