Burrowing Owl’s Guard Duty
I volunteer at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and from time to time I’m asked to keep an eye on a specific exhibit or locale at the museum. That work is necessary but can be very tedious, especially on a warm and sunny day. I confess, I’ve been known to doze off from time to time.
So, I extend my sympathies to Burrowing Owls, who seem eternally to be saddled with guard duty. These little owls nearly always hang out by their burrows during daylight. If approached, they are reluctant to fly, and they will stand their ground until the last possible moment. Here’s an image of one of them, on guard by the entrance to its burrow.
There may be more than one explanation for these little owls’ stubborn defense of their homes. Perhaps they are afraid that other owls will take over in their absence. Burrows aren’t all that easy to come by. Generally, these owls take over and improve existing burrows — usually consisting of burrows abandoned by other animals — and these are almost certainly precious to these birds. Additionally, something may be going on down in that burrow that’s hidden from view but that gives the owl added incentive to be vigilant. It’s effectively early spring in southeastern Arizona and Burrowing Owl breeding season may have commenced. There may be a female sitting on eggs down in that burrow.
However, even as I sometimes have trouble keeping my eyes open performing guard duty at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, these little owls sometimes find a nap irresistible in the warm Arizona sunshine. As the following sequence clearly illustrates.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO+1.4X Extender, aperture priority setting. The first image shot at ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/1600. The next three images shot at ISO 320, f8 @ 1/640.