The Burrowing Owl is most active during the day. It migrates south for the winter and returns each spring to an ever more uncertain fate. The owl is in serious decline, due to intensive agriculture, urban sprawl, destruction of ground squirrel colonies, and elimination of sage habitats. Support farmers and ranchers who protect habitat. Learn more about the Natural Resources Conservation Service. And find out more about local food production at GatheringOurVoice.org.
The Burrowing Owl
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Eastern Washington ambient sounds—cow, irrigation]
It is a warm May afternoon, as you take a leisurely drive through open grassland in the West. Suddenly a remarkable sight catches your eye. Atop a fencepost – on surprisingly long legs – stands a small, brown owl! [Burrowing Owl chattering]
You’ve chanced upon a Burrowing Owl, an owl species most active during the day.
[Burrowing Owl coo-cooo vocalization]
The ten-inch-tall owl bobs up and down on its legs, swivels its head, and stares back at you with large, lemon-yellow eyes. Fluttering up from its perch, the Burrowing Owl hovers twenty feet above ground, then drops, catching a large beetle in its talons. It flies to an abandoned marmot burrow, where it nests and avoids the heat of midday. Naturalist Hamilton Tyler noted that the Zuni people call the Burrowing Owl “the priest of the prairie dogs,” because the owls live “on peaceable terms with prairie dogs, rattlesnakes, and horned toads.”
[Burrowing Owl chattering]
The Burrowing Owl is in serious decline in the West, due to intensive agriculture, destruction of ground squirrel colonies, and elimination of sage habitats. This charismatic owl, which migrates south for the winter, returns each spring to an ever more uncertain fate.
[Burrowing Owl coo-cooo]
It’s satisfying to know there are ways you can use your purchasing power to help birds in trouble. Support farmers and ranchers who protect habitat. Learn more at birdnote.org.
Calls of the Burrowing Owl provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller. LMS CD 25 T2&3
Irrigation ambient recorded by C. Peterson
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org May 2018 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# orig 051506BUOWKPLU SotB-BUOW-01-2010-05-30
* Pueblo Birds and Myths, Hamilton Tyler, Northland Pub; 1st soft cover edition (June 1991)