Mr. And Ms. Burrowing Owl
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This is breeding season for many species and that includes Burrowing Owls. In recent days I’ve visited a few sites where I know that there are pairs of these birds, hoping to catch a glimpse of fledgling owls. No luck, so far, but I will persevere. Last week, I photographed one pair of adult birds. When I first arrived at the location, there was just one owl above ground, standing guard over the burrow.
After a minute or so a second owl popped up out of the burrow and the two of them observed me warily as I photographed them.
With many raptor species females are larger than males. Burrowing Owls are one exception to this general rule and one cannot associate gender with size. The owl on the left side of the portrait of the duo is clearly larger than the one on the right side, but that is no basis for me to assert that one is a male and the other is a female. Arguably, plumage might be a better indicator of gender. Male and female Burrowing Owls have essentially identical plumage. However, the male’s plumage is said to become more faded or “worn” over time because he spends more time out of the burrow and in direct sunlight than does the female, and the sun bleaches his feathers. That’s a theory, at any rate, and I don’t know whether it’s been tested empirically. One bird in the portrait — the bird on the left — definitely has more faded plumage than has the other, so perhaps he’s the male.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 500. First image shot at f6.3 @ 1/3200, the second, f9 @ 1/1250.