Burrowing Owl Youngsters – Hams Of The Bird World

Prepare to lose your heart if you ever have the opportunity to photograph or watch juvenile Burrowing Owls up close.  They’re full of spontaneous antics and personality and they’re cute as a button.

I photographed these siblings several years ago along the causeway to Antelope Island.  The burrow was right next to the road and they were very acclimated to vehicles.  As per usual, I was shooting from my pickup and all I had to do was stop on the shoulder of the road and photograph from there from inside my vehicle.  In most situations I wouldn’t attempt to get this close for fear of disturbing the birds.

I’ve posted several images similar to these in the past (and there’s one on the rotating banner at the top of my blog) but these actual shots are new to my blog and I thought some of you might like to see a whole series of the same birds taken on the same morning to provide a better feeling for the personalities of these little characters.

The light was harsh, the birds were sidelit, there was obscuring vegetation and the perch was ugly concrete (which is why I chose to leave my teleconverter on and go for intimate portraits) but the birds were simply wonderful.


burrowing owl 9278 ron dudley

 1/400, f/11, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light, not baited, set up or called in

I believe there were five juveniles in the burrow and I photographed them for many days though all these shots were taken on the same morning.  Two of the juvies liked to perch on a piece of concrete that was very close to my  truck and when they did they would often study me intently.



burrowing owl 9439 ron dudley

  1/800, f/9, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light, not baited, set up or called in

A few minutes later they had changed position on the perch and one youngster tilted its head as it checked me out.  There’s been some discussion in a previous post about whether or not this is parallaxing behavior (visual) or auditory.  Whatever its purpose I sure find the pose to be appealing…



burrowing owl 9414 ron dudley

  1/800, f/9, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light, not baited, set up or called in

 though the other youngster appears to be bored by it all.



burrowing owl 9417 ron dudley

 1/640, f/9, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light, not baited, set up or called in

 And, as in humans, yawning seems to be contagious.  These young owls are champion yawners.



burrowing owl 9428 ron dudley

1/640, f/9, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light, not baited, set up or called in

 Then one bird leaned over and nibbled on the cheek of its brother or sister.



burrowing owl 9445 ron dudley

 1/500, f/9, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light, not baited, set up or called in

 At one point the owl on the left was so intensely curious about me that it leaned over (apparently to get its head as close to me as possible) and…



burrowing owl 9451 ron dudley

 1/500, f/9, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light, not baited, set up or called in

did that head rotation thing again, this time so far that its eyes were even turned past vertical.

There are times when I’m photographing young Burrowing Owls that I become so enamored by their adorable behaviors that I almost forget to push the shutter.  Occasionally I’ve even put the camera down and just watched them.  They are truly a joy.



37 comments to Burrowing Owl Youngsters – Hams Of The Bird World

  • Your photographs are beautiful! Love how they posed for you 🙂

  • Patty Chadwick

    I’m addicted to these owls…I click on them every time I need a laugh or a lift. I can’t see how you can possibly keep the camera steady enough to get shots like these…laughter must make it quite challenging.

  • Dear Ron, how talented you are. And how technologically challenged I am! I didn’t realize that I could leave a comment. I thought that I had to do that on Facebook.
    So I’ll say here what I said there–that it’s no wonder the ancient Greeks gave owls as companions to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Their eyes seem to pierce the soul and yet
    they have such a delightful sense of the ridiculous among humans. I just loved these photographs! Thank you. Peace.

  • Sandra & Richard

    Dear Ron, Thank you so very much for these most wonderful photographs.
    We are very pleased that a friend passed your blog onto us.
    We were fortunate when we lived on Bruny Island Tasmania,
    to be visited by two Tawney Frogmouth baby owls, they displayed
    antics and curiousity as your Owls, if only we could have taken such beautiful
    photographs. Your work is exquisite.

  • Sandra & Richard

    Dear Ron, Your link was passed onto us by a friend, as she knows our love of birds…
    Where we used to live on Bruny Island Tasmania, we often had visits from Tawny Frogmouth Owls
    They had very similar antics, and it was often difficult to say who was the most curious.
    They roosted for many days in a tree near our house.There is something gentle and
    human like about owls.
    Your splendid photographs are masterpieces.

  • Diana

    I have to come back everyday for a dose of laughter

    Thanks again and again

  • Janice Webb

    Thank you kindly for taking the time to answer my question Ron and I want you to know that I have nothing but respect for your position on this subject; however, if you ever open a print store, I’ll be first in line on opening day. Until then, if that day ever comes, I hope you spend all your retirement days doing exactly as you choose with no hassle.

  • Ingrid

    I keep looking at the photos and they make me laugh every time – how delightful all animals are (can be)!

  • Nicole

    These are fantastic, thank you so much!!! I love the yawns!!!

  • Leisa Duncan

    I needed that smile on this Monday morning! All the pics are wonderful, but the cheek nibbling one – its just over the top incredibly cute! Thanks for sharing, and I think its wonderful that you can put the camera down and be in the moment and just enjoy watching them. There have been many times I tried to hard to capture something and missed the enjoyment of being there.

  • Charlotte Nortin

    How adorable are these shots! Thanks so much for sharing. I never see these birds and I love it.

  • Your photos made me laugh ! What adorable creatures ! Many thanks for sharing.

  • Janice Webb

    Hello again Ron,

    We also came back for some more cuteness this evening and now wish to ask you the same question that Elephant’s Child asked, do you ever sell copies of your pictures?

    • Welcome back, Janice. Hope you enjoyed the “cuteness” the second time too.

      Ok, here’s what I sent to Elephant’s Child in an email, with some personal stuff left out.

      “As I’m sure you’ve noticed I don’t offer prints for sale on either my blog or my galleries. I don’t do it because prints are a lot of work for relatively little return, because a small percentage of “customers” are first class jerks and mostly because I’m retired, lazy and would rather be out with the birds and other critters than running a “business”. I’m in this for the enjoyment, not to make money…

      That said, when folks want one of my prints badly enough to negotiate the roadblocks I’ve set in place and ask anyway – well, I often comply. It’s hard to turn them down when they enjoy the image that much.”

      So Janice, whenever any of the “regulars” on my blog request a print I do try to work with them and I feel very honored that they would ask. I just choose not to solicit print requests.

  • I had to come back and smile and ooh and aah some more. Thank you for brightening my world. Again. Do you ever sell prints of your photos?

    • I’m glad you came back for a second look, Elephant’s Child – and that you like the images so much. I’ll answer your question in an email later this evening.

  • Debbie Trainer

    Thank you! Thank you so much. These owls are so precious. How can anyone not fall in love with them. I love their head tilts, which they do of course because their eye sockets are stationary. The only way for them to completely see what they are looking at is by tilting their heads. This causes them to be extra cute. Thanks Ron! I love all birds but owls have a piece of my heart.

  • Superb technical quality.
    Outstanding composition.
    Over-the-top cuteness!
    Anyone who doesn’t say “awww” does not have a pulse.

    Thank you, Ron! Great series!

  • This is one of the most delightful series of photographs I’ve ever seen of wildlife.


  • Janice Webb

    I love when you revel in your vocation! Sharing your joy with us makes the pictures even more fun and I was laughing out loud all by myself. When I showed these to my Grand daughter, she said it all as only a teen-ager can with “I am going to DIE from their cuteness!”. Thank you, thank you, thank you…..

    • And I love doing the reveling, Janice. I certainly recognize (and appreciate) your granddaughter’s enthusiastic words after teaching high schoolers for so many years.

  • These photos made me smile and have provided a bright spot in my day. Those owls are adorable.

  • Tana Hunter

    Soooo adorable! Thank you for giving me a smile and a chuckle.

  • Ron, thanks to you and Mia, I was able to enjoy these owls when I visited Antelope Island. Awesome capture!

    • I’m glad you were able to spend some time with Burrowing Owls while you were on the island, Steve. I just wish you’d had better weather while you were here.

  • Diana

    It seemed like they were smiling at ME!

  • Dick Harlow

    1. Look, that human has something sticking out of his truck window.
    2. I’m going to try to figure this out.
    3. Whatever.
    4. WOW!!
    5. Aren’t you even interested?
    6. Man, that’s a funny looking truck.
    7. Can’t figure out what he’s got on his window.

    Wonderful shots Ron.

  • I am so glad that you didn’t put the camera down this time. But could well understand it. Feathered enchantment. Thank you so much.