Burrowing Owl

D R Moore

Jupiter, United States

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Artist's Description

The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is a small, long-legged owl found throughout open landscapes of North and South America. Burrowing owls can be found in grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas, deserts, or any other dry, open area with low vegetation such as golf courses, cemeteries, airports, vacant lots, university campuses, pastures, and prairie dog towns.. They nest and roost in burrows, Although it is quite willing to dig its own burrow, it often uses one already excavated by prairie dogs, skunks, armadillos, or tortoises..
Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are often active during the day, although they tend to avoid the mid-day heat. Most hunting is still done from dusk until dawn. The Burrowing Owl will collect mammal dung and put it in and around its burrow. The dung attracts dung beetles, which the owl then captures and eats. They also hunt insects, scorpions, small mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles by walking, hopping, or running along the ground, or by flying from perch and catches the food with his/her feet.

Burrowing owls have bright yellow eyes. The beak can be between yellowish or greenish depending on the subspecies. They lack ear tufts and have a flattened facial disc. The owls have prominent white eyebrows and a white “chin” patch which they expand and display during certain behaviors, such as bobbing of the head when agitated.

Adult owls have brown upper parts with white spotting. The breast and belly are white with variable brown spotting or barring. Juvenile owls are similar in appearance, but they lack most of the white spotting above and brown barring below. Also, the young owls have a buff bar across the upper wing and their breast may be buffy rather than white.

Males and females are similar in size and appearance. The female bird is darker in color, however, adult males appear lighter in color because they spend more time outside the burrow during daylight, and their feathers become “sun-bleached”. The average adult is 25 cm (10 inches) long, Has a 53 cm (21 inches) wingspan, and weighs in at 170g (6 oz).

The typical who who call of a burrowing owl is associated with territory defense and breeding, and is often given by adult males to attract a female to a promising burrow. They also make other sounds, which are described as chucks, chattering, and screams. These sounds are usually accompanied by an up and down bobbing of the head. When alarmed, young birds will give a hissing call that sounds like a rattlesnake.

Populations are declining in many areas; listed as endangered or threatened in some states and provinces. Collision with cars is a major source of mortality. Human activities have increased the species’ range in Florida.

This image was Captured in Jupiter, Florida with a Canon 450D using an EFS 55-250mm lens
Focal Length 110mm
Exposure Time 1/125s
Aperture F5
ISO-640

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