Friday, January 21, 2011

Burrowing Owls

When most people think of owls they usually picture a silent bird floating through the night sky, but not all owls are nocturnal. There are some owls that are active during the day, called diurnal. In Minnesota we have two species of diurnal owls that visit from time to time, the northern hawk owl, that come down from Canada, and the burrowing owl, that are occasionally found in the western parts of the state.
Burrowing owls do not nest in trees as most other owls do but instead nest in under ground burrows such as this. Burrowing owls do not dig their own burrows, except for the small subspecies which lives in Florida, instead they typically use burrows that were created by mammals such as prairie dogs or ground squirrels. This burrow, which I photographed in Idaho, was a hole that was dug by a badger looking for prey.
Burrowing owls begin mating in late spring. After courtship they will begin to lay from 2 to 12 eggs each one day apart. The eggs will be incubated from 28 to 30 days by the female while the male does all of the hunting for the pair. When the eggs hatch the young burrowing owls chicks are covered with white down feathers. Their eyes are still closed and they rely totally on their parents for warmth, food and safety.
As the young owls begin to get their feathers and are able to thermal regulate on their own, usually around two weeks after they hatch, both parents will leave the nest to find food for the hungry youngster. At this time the young owls will often roost near the entrance of the burrowing waiting for the adults to return with food. If a predator enters the burrow the chicks will begin to make a hissing noise that sounds similar to a rattle snake to scare the predator away. After around 45 days the chicks will leave the burrow and begin to forage for food on their own, under their parents supervision.
The young owls will eat mainly insects, which they catch on the ground. Burrows are usually lined with mammal dung which attracts dung beetles which are a good source of food for the young and adults alike. Burrowing owls will eat a variety of prey depending on the habitat in which they are found. Prey includes insects, mainly beetles and grasshoppers, mice, rats, ground squirrels, lizards, reptiles, amphibians and small birds.

13 comments:

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Great photos and a wonderful nature lesson.

ladyfi said...

Wonderful photos! And I have learnt something new about owls.. how fascinating!

Snap said...

i love owls... great shots ...

Jidhu Jose said...

super snaps

John S. Mead said...

Great images and I really appreciate how you share your knowlege...as a Science teacher, I feel we need more folks sharing like this! THANKS!

Shelley Munro said...

Great photos. Thanks for telling me about Burrowing owls. I hadn't heard of them before. We only have one type of owl in New Zealand, so it was fun learning about a different one.

Snow Leopard said...

Owls are intelligent creatures. Heard about this particular variety but this is the first time I have seen a snap

BJ Roan said...

Great series, and I enjoyed the lesson on owls. I never knew any species burrowed.

Susan said...

Excellent post, thank you!

Rachel Roushey said...

Wonderful post. Very educational. I'm going to have to start looking for these burrowing owls come spring. I live in Western Minnesota and would love to come across some of those guys.

Hug a tree with me said...

beautiful shots and a lot of useful info
http://hugatreewithme2.blogspot.com

Gretchen said...

Just gorgeous! Thank you for sharing!

Jaypee said...

Lovely owl!

I hope you can visit mine too :)
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