A New Year For The Burrowing Owls

Most everybody who knows me, is keenly aware that bears of all species are my favorite thing to photograph and spend time with.  Bears though, while not impossible to find in Florida, are not everyday subjects.  Lucky for me, owls are my next favorite subject and in Florida we’re fortunate to have several different species including the eastern screech,  great horned, barred, barn, and one of my personal favorites … the burrowing owl.  As in years past, I have been spending a lot of time with them, so if you like them like I do, get ready for several blog posts featuring these entertaining, expressive creatures.  🙂DSC_5965-EditIn Florida, the mating season begins sometime around February.  While full time residents of Florida, the fun with them usually begins at that time … and when their owlets first emerge from the safety of the burrow at about 2 weeks of age.  For the purpose of this first blog, these images are all adult owls, mostly just prior to mating for the season.  DSC_6332The burrowing owl is one of the smallest owls in Florida, standing about 9 inches tall with a wingspan of about 21 inches.  They lack ear tufts that some owls possess and as their name suggests, they live in established burrows in the ground.  Those burrows can be quite intricate too … with burrow tunnels reaching lengths of several feet.  They normally have bright yellow eyes, though in Florida it’s not unusual to have dark brown, light brown, or even olive green eyes.  As you can see in the image below, this couple illustrates the varied eye color.DSC_5858Their scientific name, Athene cunicularia, translates to mean “little digger” and it’s easy to see why … they are effective diggers and are often seen digging out the sand in the burrows.  Often the owls become unknown recipients of all of that sand and dirt.  LOLDSC_6184Burrowing owls in Florida are listed as a State Threatened species by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, thus are under much protection.  Therefore “taking, possessing, or selling burrowing owls, their nests (i.e., burrows), or eggs is prohibited without a permit (68A-27 F.A.C.)”.  Burrowing owls, eggs, and young are also protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Usually in the winter, they begin to pair up at various burrows.  Sometimes I know that it’s the same owls at the same burrow … sometimes a new partner will show up … sometimes it’s an entirely new couple.DSC_2858Either way, the behavior is the same.  Burrowing owls keep keen eyes on the skies above for potential predators or threats.  It’s amazing to me how they can perceive things long before I ever get the tiniest glimpse.DSC_2845The couples are actually quite affectionate together and offer food to one another …DSC_2884… and often nuzzle together as they pass the time together. DSC_2897Solitary and mutual grooming is part of the ritual too.  🙂DSC_2895Then there’s more of what seems to be an endless chore of housekeeping, and all of that flying dirt.  LOLDSC_2939I hope that you enjoyed the blog and will be back soon when the blog carries on with images and stories of the real stars … the new installment of this years baby owlets … with their downy fur, “hair plugs”, and clumsy ways.  They are the perfect way for me to pass the day … and they’re never short on expressions, attitudes, and fun!DSC_2955

Next Up:  My next favorite subject …. hmmm … what could it be?  Check in to find out!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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6 thoughts on “A New Year For The Burrowing Owls

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