Burrowing Owls and more in Southern California
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved. california2016-burrowingowls1

Burrowing Owls and more in Southern California

Burrowing Owls are adorable little raptors that actually live in the ground. They occupy burrows made by squirrels, foxes, skunks and other mammals. They are not found in the Northeast, so when I recently had reason to be in San Diego, I drove out to The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge to see them for the first time. More than 70% of the California Burrowing Owl population is found within the Salton Sea ecosystem.

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

The area is full of large farms with miles of irrigation canals. With very little traffic, you can drive slowly along dirt roads and try to get a glimpse of the well-camouflaged little owls.

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Burrowing Owls do most of their hunting at night, but will also hunt during the day. They stand guard outside of their burrows if it gets too hot inside.

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

They are constantly moving their heads around, it’s very comical, so I took some video to share what still photos can’t:

Burrowing Owls are sadly losing their habitat due to human sprawl, so conservationists install artificial burrows that the owls seem to like, which means you’ve got to check every pipe you pass…

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

This guy eventually came out for some portraits…

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

…and he graciously posed exactly where I asked him to.

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Another pipe had (at least) three owls hiding inside…

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Some other raptors in the area… two Great Horned Owls in a palm tree:

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

A stunningly beautiful White-Tailed Kite:

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

American Kestrels were everywhere… the small falcon species is in sharp decline on the east coast, so it was great to see them thriving in California:

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

American Kestrel fighting with a juvenile Peregrine Falcon for a perch (the kestrel won)…

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Northern Harriers on patrol for mammals and wintering shorebirds:

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Lastly, here’s an unusual duo – a Great Egret with a Burrowing Owl…

© 2016 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Thanks for following along – please leave any comments or questions below – Happy New Year!


3 Comments

  1. Michelle
    Posted 12.30.16 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Another beautiful series of photos from Peter Green. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Dan
    Posted 12.30.16 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Great pictures and commentary. Educational and uplifting at the same time. Good job, Peter.

  3. Posted 01.07.17 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Such amazing pictures, Peter! It looks like you had a wonderful time exploring a very different habitat than the urban environment back East. The Burrowing Owls have such long legs! Is this to aid in digging underground or are most of their burrows already dug out by other animals? Love the video ,it really shows how alert and vigilant the little owls must be to avoid ariel predators like the Harriers. Thanks for sharing!

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