You know what? I just love plants and animals that are something out of the ordinary. I think that is why this little owl is one of my favorite birds.
Normally when you think of owls, you envision them flying at night to hunt and making their homes up in trees, don’t you? Well, the burrowing owl has definitely not read the “owl rule book” because they do things quite differently from other owls.
For example, they hunt both by night and day, make their homes in underground holes and can hunt on foot or by flying. Not typical owl behavior is it?
The burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) is quite opportunistic when finding a home; often choosing to find a burrow that has been abandoned by another animal. In more developed areas, they can even create their own burrows using their bills for digging and feet for scratching. Those that migrate, tend to return to the same burrow each year, or one nearby.
Another unique characteristic about this little owl is that they not only hunt by flying – they also hunt on foot. They hunt in the day or night hours. Their diet consists of insects, small mammals, birds, lizards and other amphibians. Burrowing owls also include fruit and seeds in their diet including the fruit of the prickly pear cacti. If you are lucky, you can view them running on foot to grab a large grasshopper or beetle.
They are monogamous (for the most part) and lay an average of 6 – 9 eggs in spring. The female incubates the eggs while the male feeds her. Once the eggs hatch, the male cares for the young while they are in the nest. The young owlets make a noise similar to a rattlesnake rattle when they feel threatened, which helps to protect them from predators.
Burrowing owls are quite small, reaching a mature size of only 7 1/2″ – 10″ and are found in much of the Western United States as well as Florida. You can find them residing in different habitats such as agricultural land, deserts and grasslands. They live year round in the southern areas of their range and those that live in northern areas, migrate south to Mexico in the winter. Their numbers are declining and are considered an endangered species due to disappearing habitat.
**I do enjoy taking pictures of birds (and plants) and I wish that I could take credit for this great photo, but it was actually taken by my 16 year-old nephew. Like me, he also lives in the desert Southwest, but in California. His home is located in a largely undeveloped area and there are many different types of bird species to see. He is also a great photographer and he has graciously agreed to be on the lookout for different types of birds to take photos of. And so between my nephew and myself, I hope to have many great bird photos to share with you.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about this unusual little owl. I would love to hear about any unusual birds that you may have observed. Leave me a comment and share what you have seen…..