Burrowing Owls — Starting A Family?

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I take a lot of photos of Burrowing Owls.  These cute little owls certainly rank among my favorite subjects.  I also photograph them a lot because they’re fairly easy game.  I mentioned the other day that these owls tend to stay in their burrows for months or years.  I know where several of these burrows are by virtue of my frequent drives in farm country.  I just can’t help myself when I approach one of these burrows and see an owl standing beside it.  It’s almost as if the Burrowing Owl is asking me to take its picture.

One of the burrows that I’m familiar with is occupied by a pair of owls.  These owls have produced offspring for at least the last two years.  Last year they raised two owlets.  The year before it was three.

I visited their burrow a few days ago.  It was my first time there in nearly a year.  I was pleased to find a pair of owls there, most likely the same pair that I’ve photographed in previous years.  One of the birds stood sentinel above the burrow’s mouth while the other one surveilled the countryside while partially hidden in the burrow.

After a minute or so, the bird standing above the burrow took flight, but flew less than a dozen yards.

The second owl then popped out of the burrow in order to better check me out.

It’s impossible to tell which of these birds is male and which is female.  Burrowing Owls have no identifying sex-related characteristics.  With some raptor species females are larger than males.  That’s not the case with Burrowing Owls.  Nor are there noticeable differences in plumage.

How do the males know which are the females and vice versa?  Well, obviously, they know something that we don’t know.

Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting. All images shot at ISO 500.  First image, f8 @ 1/2000; second image, f16 @ 1/400; third image, f16 @ 1/320.

One response to “Burrowing Owls — Starting A Family?”

  1. Paule Hjertaas says :

    The males get paler over the nesting season as their feathers are bleached by the sum. The female spends more time in the burrow so stays darker. I am glad this pair is raising owlets but 2 or 3 is poor when they can have up to 10 with good food available.

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