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The other day I posted some images of a Burrowing Owl family. I mentioned then that Burrowing Owls often tilt or bob their heads in order to get a better view of a subject. That behavior compensates for lack of muscles that would move the owls’ eyes independently.
Here’s another Burrowing Owl — a juvenile bird — giving me a good look.
As you’ll see from the second and third images, the young owl wasn’t content with just staring at me. It tilted its head to an extreme degree, apparently to better study me.
I’ve observed that it’s frequently the youngsters that engage in pronounced head-tilting when they observe something, and I’ve wondered why. I can hazard a guess. The young owl in these images, although fully fledged and capable of flight, is still very much a child, probably no more than 2-3 months old. At this stage of its life, everything that the owl encounters is something new and strange. My guess is that the owl had never previously seen a human poking a long lens in its direction from a vehicle’s window and it was genuinely puzzled by what it saw.
Tilting its head so sharply may have been its way to try to get an extra-good look at this strange intruder.
Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 1250, f5.6 @ !/1600, +2/3 stop exposure compensation.