Friday, February 10, 2012

Meet the "Happy Owl"

Today's post goes back a few years, to a trip I made to the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma. My trip there was primarily for wildflowers, bison and prairie dogs, along with the awesome landscapes of the Wichita Mountains.

I found all of those, but also was treated to a special guest appearance by some Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia). This was a life bird for me at the time and I was quite impressed with these magnificent little creatures and their awesome behaviors. I quickly nicknamed them the "Happy Owls" since they are such a joy to watch.

The Burrowing Owls have a small stature, about 9 inches, and have some very long, slender legs. They nest in underground burrows, usually in abandoned prairie dog burrows. And they are often quite active during the day, which makes for so much more fun watching/photographing them! During this trip, there were 5 or 6 Burrowing Owls and they stayed quite active as they flew about the prairie:

This owl was bringing back a small buffalo chip, presumably for nesting material:

Here he is, with the chip at his burrow:

This owl had captured an unlucky spider in the prairie:

This owl was casting quite a shadow against the large rock, as the sun crept lower on the horizon:

And this little owl flew back to the burrow with a tasty morsel:

You can see that lunch is still wiggling around as the owl stands above the open burrow:

... waiting for the Mrs Owl, who emerged from the burrow and accepted lunch from her mate:

After a few minutes, the female owl entered the burrow, with only the top of her head showing. The male then proceeded to preen his mate:

When the female worked her way to the top of the burrow, the male continued preening his sweetheart:

A few minutes later, the female re-entered the burrow. The male then took on an unusual posture, as if showing happiness he had pleased his mate:

The Burrowing Owl population is decreasing in many areas. But anyone lucky enough to find these cute little owls will have a "happy time" watching or photographing them!


  1. I adore Burrowing Owls, they are cute, interesting and often quite funny. Wonderful post Jim

  2. Super post and photos Jim. These owls are wonderful , I hope to see some someday .

  3. Great story and photos! I can't wait to see my first burrowing Owl!

  4. Thanks Mia, Dan and Tammy! Unfortunately, this has been my one and only encounter with these adorable little owls. They are soooooo much fun to watch and be around!

  5. Having yet to see Burrowing Owls, despite many attempts, I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful post. Thank you so much!

  6. These are great shots! I hope to see this one day:) They are very interesting owls.

  7. These shots were very beautiful like a story. Cheers.

  8. Nice post Jim! Burrowing Owls are great. I have seen them on eleven separate occasions in four states: AZ, ID, OR, and UT. My best day was seeing 29 of them, mostly young, near the Snake River Birds of Prey area in Idaho.

  9. Gorgeous owl! Great photos! Thanks for sharing this post.

  10. Great pix. I especially love the one with the shadow.

    Thanks for posting.

  11. Oh Jim, this is a glorious post! I would love to observe Burrowing Owls. I guess I will have to travel west to do so. Fabulous behavior shots of the couple! Love photographs of the preening moments ... all are exceptional, though.

  12. Great Owl photos! We don't usually get such a view with the species of owls we have in Connecticut.

  13. En verkligt vacker bildserie av ugglan!
    / Lars

  14. Hmmm, perhaps we can get these male owls to give our husbands some lessons in pleasing their wives! Cute post!