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Burrowing Owls: Howdy Birds

In some ways, they’re more like rodents than raptors

A Burrowing Owl is about as big as a can of beans on stilts. Between the long legs, bright yellow eyes, and signature bobbing salute, these little birds are comical members of the western ecosystem. Cowboys riding Western rangelands have a nickname for these little owls. They call them “howdy birds” for the way they bob up and down in front of their nests.

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Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Burrowing Owls: Howdy Birds

Written by Monica Gokey

This is BirdNote.

Today, we’re looking at an owl that nests underground, lives in colonies, and hides its food. Even the sound it makes is… unusual.

[Hiss of a burrowing owl]

Yipes! The hiss of a Burrowing Owl sounds just like a dangerous rattlesnake, which is a great way to scare off potential predators.

[Burrowing owl -- coo, coooo!]

Unlike most other owls, Burrowing Owls are diurnal: they’re awake during the day and then they sleep at night.

Burrowing Owls often nest in the abandoned underground tunnels of prairie dogs and ground squirrels. And even though their bodies aren’t designed for digging, they can use their beaks to excavate dirt, renovating an existing burrow to meet their needs.

Cowboys riding Western rangelands have a nickname for these little owls. They call them “howdy birds” for the way they bob up and down in front of their nests.

A Burrowing Owl is about as big as a can of beans on stilts. Between the long legs, bright yellow eyes, and signature bobbing salute — these little birds are comical members of the western ecosystem.

So If you ever find yourself on the open rangelands of the West, be sure to tip your hat to the Burrowing Owl. You may get a bobbing “howdy” in reply.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.


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Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Michael Stein

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.

BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 BirdNote   July 2019

ID#  BUOW-04-2019-07-19    BUOW-04

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