I always say that burrowing owls have the most personality of just about any animal I have ever seen. Here is some evidence. This little burrowing owl owlet was the first to emerge from the nest on a recent morning and provided some great entertainment. Its head bobbing as it checks out the morning scene is hillarious.
“Back off, dog!”
Normally burrowing owls and prairie dogs live harmoniously in the same community. It is a symbiotic relationship with the owls nesting in abandoned prairie dog burrows and the two species sharing watch duty for threats. However, sometimes the neighbors can get a bit too close for comfort.
This past weekend I spent a morning watching a burrowing owl family with five owlets. One of the little ones did not appreciate the neighbors one bit and he did his best to appear big and mean to scare the prairie dogs off when they wandered too close.
It was so darned funny to watch the little dude (or dudette) act tough. The hunkering down and raising wings like this is a common thing that owls do in the face of a threat. It is a way to make themselves bigger and ideally ward off any bad guys.
Trying to get a single picture of all of the members of this big of a family of owls is pretty much impossible. I did manage a couple captures though with most of them.
In this image, mom is returning to the nest and all nine owlets were in view. The only family member missing was dad as he was off hunting.
Once the owlets emerge from the nest, they grow very quickly and soon disperse. The evening after this image was taken, three of the nine had relocated to a different burrow further away. Now, a week and a half later, you would be hard-pressed to find any of them.
Well, it seems this female burrowing owl finally had enough of having a camera pointed at her. 😉
Not a very good pic in terms of quality due to the dim light at the time, but a fun one nonetheless. I was photographing this lady, her mate and their nine owlets (yes, nine!) one evening this week.
She seemed to take notice of me and began chattering at me. When I didn’t move, she then marched right toward me getting another 10 feet closer. It was hilarious as she looked so danged serious about the situation and when they walk, they look kinda goofy.
In the end she decided I wasn’t a threat and went back to taking care of her brood.
Yesterday’s photo outing wasn’t going so well at the start. Wildlife wasn’t cooperative and crowds at some of my usual spots were frustrating.
I broke free from that and headed out to parts less traveled and was rewarded with this handsome burrowing owl and his mate. They have themselves a nice home on the Great Plains and almost certainly have a family hidden in their home.
He was doing a great job going out and catching bugs, bringing them back and then the female would deliver them into the burrow. For a time, he was well aware of my presence and did a good bit of calling to let me know the area was occupied. Here he is, mid-call, all puffed up and looking right at me.
Catching pictures of these little guys in flight is always a challenge and one that I rarely succeed at. They usually stick close to the ground making it hard to pick them out of the ground cover.
As I observed this one last weekend, much to my surprise, it launched into the air right at me and up high. I resorted to the “spray and pray” method of taking pictures – just pointing the camera at the subject and squeezing the shutter hoping to get something. It isn’t an elegant way of taking pictures nor is there planning involved. Luck is probably the biggest factor.
This time it panned out and I got a nice little sequence of it as it made a hard left in the air.
This burrowing owl is more obsessed with bringing things back to the nest than any other I have ever seen. Everything from pieces of dead foliage to buffalo chips seem to be fair game. Perhaps a bit of an animal-world hoarder? I dunno. Maybe that is just what it takes these days to attract a mate in the burrowing owl world.
A pair of burrowing owls showing their affection and playing kissy face.
Okay, I admit, they could have just been cleaning bugs off of each other’s faces. I am a romantic at heart though so I will go with the more appealing reason for this display. 😉
I always say that burrowing owls are arguably one of the most entertaining forms of wildlife you could hope to see. They are rarely motionless and their activities just bring a smile to your face.
Here, the male (left), flew in and instantly started this routine. She definitely appeared to be appreciative and enjoyed it.
A male burrowing owl seems quite impressed with itself upon returning with some nesting material. 😉
I spent a good bit of time this morning with a fabulous pair of these cool little owls. As always, they were highly entertaining spending some time gathering stuff, playing kissy face (a pic I will share soon) and flying around. It won’t be long and she should be down in the burrow sitting on eggs.
A friend tipped me off to a spot where burrowing owls were working on setting up their summer home (thank you!) so I of course had to check it out. This pair was being extraordinarily shy with one flying off and the other refusing to show itself. The second one couldn’t entirely contain its curiosity though and peeked its head up for a look making for a fun shot.