Saturday, December 6, 2008

South Dakota Burrowing Owl

Back in August I participated in a shorebird workshop in South Dakota. During the several days long workshop, it ran from August 8th until the 10th, we spent most of our time out in the fields, shallow lakes, and other mud holes learning to identify the different types of shorebirds. But a good birder is always on the look out for unusual or more unique sitings, which is why the leaders of the workshop made an unscheduled stop in a hay field during the first day of the workshop.
Instead of black muddy field like we had been looking at earlier in the day this field was green and had several rolls of hay scattered through out. We looked around and saw nothing but only moments after we arrived we spotted the special bird that we were hoping to see.
The burrowing owl is one of the smallest owls in North America, about 10" tall and weighing around 6 ounces. They are named burrowing owls because they live in underground burrows that have been abandon by small mammals, such as prairie dogs or ground squirrels.
With an estimated population of under 10,000 breeding pair the burrowing owl is listed as a candidate species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, meaning that they may need to be listed as threatened or endangered but there is no conclusive data at this time. In Canada they are considered endangered.
In South Dakota burrowing owls are not uncommon. They often spend their summers nesting in prairie dog colonies. Unfortunately farmers and rancher view prairie dogs as a pest and often try to eliminate them from their land. These prairie dog control practices have affected the burrowing owls and have contributed to their declining numbers.
Most of the people participating in the shorebird workshop were from Minnesota. Burrowing owl sightings in Minnesota are rare and usually only occur on the western border of the state. Although I have photographed burrowing owls in California in the past I was still excited to have the opportunity to photograph this one. In 2007 I drove 5 hours each way out to south western Minnesota to photograph burrowing owls. This time I still drove about 5 hours to get to South Dakota, but getting to photograph a burrowing owl at a shorebird workshop was froasting on the cake and I took advantage of the opportunity. I visited the field every day of the workshop, when we had free time, and got quite a few nice shots.

23 comments:

Lynne said...

Those are such neat pictures! It would be a lifer and a thrill for me. I went to Doug Buri's sparrow workshop last fall and am thinking about the shorebird workshop next year. Shorebbirds, like gulls have always overwhelmed me but Doug and Bob assured me that I CAN learn them.

Teena in Toronto said...

Excellent shots!

I played too :)

babooshka said...

Such a beautiful bird. Amazing eyes. These really are excellent shots.

Tarolino, Finland said...

Your sky image was great but your bird images are just out of this world. I'm lost for words for the beauty of this owl for instanse and the skill that it has been captured on camera with. I guess you have some pretty expensive equipment that enables you to take these wonderful shots.

Rottlady of the Ozarks said...

I seems like that bird has personality plus! Some wonderful shots, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff, had a good chuckle when
I read that this owl is 10' tall.
Guess you really meant 10" tall.
LOL-- by the way, my Peterson
Field Guide to Birds of North
America shows about eight species
of owl smaller than a burrowing
including our own screech and
saw-whet. Keep up the great work,
your photos are phenomenal
Hap in New Hope

Kallen305 said...

Love the owl pictures. I agree about the eyes.

I have yet to see any owl yet so it's nice to learn about different ones. I didn't know any owls were that tiny.

Ecobirder said...

It teaches me right for rushing to get the post done. Oh well I have corrected the mistakes and put on the missing tag.

i beati said...

Your dedication paid off - lot of new material here for me Sandy

Parus said...

How did you get close enough for photos??
All my photos of this bird are either in extremely low light or from 300+ yds away.

Nice shots!

Ladynred said...

That is one beautiful bird.

Arija said...

Owls are such wonderful birds and you have managed to get these excellent pictures of them. No wonder you were excited.
I even got excited when I heard a different owl to our Mopoke while out to dinner on Friday.

Larry Jordan said...

Hey Ecobirder, Excellent Burrowing Owl captures! This is one of my favorite birds! We used to see them on our property several years ago, but alas, we haven't seen them in awhile.

Therefore, I decided to build an artificial Burrowing Owl nest in the hope of attracting a pair! I show the plan for the nest here: http://www.thebirdersreport.com/resources/nest-box-birdhouse-plans

Thanks for sharing the great photos!

Grammy said...

Great photos. He look like a little guy.
This is my first time on Camera critters.
Have a great week.
Grammy

June said...

Each shot is wonderful! Good job!!

Nikki-ann said...

Great photos! He looks like he's marching! :D

b13 said...

What a cute owl! I bet those talons would do some damage for such a tiny looking bird.

ramblingwoods said...

What a neat owl. I hope they do let listed properly as endangered..Loved to learn about them..

HANNIBAL said...

These are great shots! The Burrowing Owl is on my "must see" list! Seeing these shots reminds me that a trip into the west must include this guys domain.

Gallicissa said...

Wow! Superb photography as usual.

Cathy said...

Wonderful photos! One of these days, I'm going to be successful and see a burrowing owl here in the desert!

Misty Dawn said...

AWESOME! Your photos are awesome, this bird is awesome, your LIFE is awesome - I wanna come live with you ;-) hehe

Chris said...

Beautiful shots!! I'm jealous.