Juvenile Burrowing Owl – A Dubious Strategy Against The Wind

Young Burrowing Owls are endlessly entertaining. Last month in Box Elder County, Utah I watched this juvenile attempt to deal with a rather strong wind in a novel way.

 

burrowing owl 3539b ron dudley

 1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in 

The wire perch was precarious in the stiff breeze and it kept losing its balance so it backed up and leaned steeply into a metal post and braced itself between the post and a clump of wire. As you can see the wind was strong enough to lift the feathers on the back of the bird.

I thought the strategy was quite ingenious for a bird but it didn’t work for long.

 

 

burrowing owl 3541b ron dudley

  1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in 

A sudden gust very nearly toppled the bird but its instincts and quick reflexes…

 

 

burrowing owl 3543b ron dudley

  1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

enabled it to recover, though not without some…

 

 

burrowing owl 3554b ron dudley

  1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in 

apparent chagrin and embarrassment over its near calamity. It looked at me as if to see if I had noticed and then braced itself even more tightly against the post. If the bird understood the meaning of a wide human grin it knew that I most certainly had noticed.

Ron

Note: Some recent feedback from a reader informed me of some difficulty he was having reading my blog on an iPad because of the small print so you may have noticed that I’ve increased the font size. Please let me know if the change causes any problems for you on whatever platform you may be using. Thanks.

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Juvenile Great Horned Owl On The Farm

The Great Horned Owls on the Montana farm are unusually shy this summer so I only had two brief encounters with them on my recent trip. They spend most of the day in the darkness of the old granaries and only come out to hunt at night. The granaries have cut-outs for grain augers both near the roof and at ground level so it would be easy to stick my head inside to check on them but I never get close for fear of disturbing the birds.

I did discover that there is one way of checking on them from a great distance. From just the right spot on a slightly elevated dirt road perhaps 300 yards from one of the granaries I can scope through the upper cutouts with my lens and sometimes see the birds perched on the interior rafters.

 

great horned owl 9916 ron dudley

That’s what I was doing when I took this backlit shot. I just happened to fire as one of the owls lifted off from an interior rafter and flew through the far cutout on a rare daytime visit to another old granary. I don’t know what the stringy thing is hanging down but apparently it’s no problem or danger to the owls because they’ve been roosting and successfully nesting in this granary for about 20 years that I know of.

Apparently there are three owls present – a mated pair and a single juvenile from this year’s nesting season. One owl was found dead far away from this granary earlier this summer and I suspect it was another young bird.

 

 

great horned owl 0223b ron dudley 1/320, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

This is the juvenile, perched in the far cutout you see in the first image. Its ear tufts (horns) are only partially grown and it still has remnants of its juvenile plumage especially on the head (grayish-white color) where it is the last to be replaced.

Something interesting happened just before I took this image and I was able to record much of it with my camera but most of my images from the trip have yet to be downloaded and culled so I can’t include that incident this morning.

I hope to post “the rest of the story” in a day or two.

Ron

Note: I swear that these northern Montana owls are significantly larger than those I see 700 miles further south here in northern Utah. It’s something that (I think) I’ve noticed for years. Does anyone know if that’s possible or likely? Since the species is non-migratory and it fits the rule of thumb that vertebrates living in northern climates often have more massive bodies than those living further south it seems to me that it could be the case…

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