Juvenile Burrowing Owl looking high in the skyJuvenile Burrowing Owl looking high in the sky – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

The past few years I have missed seeing and photographing young Burrowing Owls on Antelope Island State Park for numerous reasons. During the breeding season of 2011 some photographers people trampled over a burrow that had been productive for years that was close to the road and that burrow has not been active since.

These owls are so appealing, cute and funny that they can be “loved to death“. Care must be taken around their burrows as their burrows can extend way beyond the openings to the burrows and people walking on them can crush the burrows possibly trapping the owls inside.

Funny Burrowing OwlFunny Burrowing Owl – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Last year there was a banding program of the Burrowing Owls on Antelope Island to study their migration patterns, mortality and to help understand why these “Clowns of the Desert” are in decline throughout the western United States. I am completely for the research but even the disturbance caused by banding seemed to have an affect on the Burrowing Owls on Antelope Island last year.

It seemed that all of the owls from the burrows close to the roads on Antelope Island dispersed much sooner than they had in years past which limited the time I (and others) had to see and photograph them.

Young Burrowing Owl with an eye on the skyYoung Burrowing Owl with an eye on the sky – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/750, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

There are various reasons for the decline of Burrowing Owls in the western U.S. including habitat destruction which is no surprise since many of the species that are threatened or endangered throughout the U.S. are in decline because we are encroaching on and destroying their habitat.  Rangeland being converted to irrigated farmland is another reason as is widespread elimination of prairie dogs and ground squirrels.

These beautiful owls do need our protection and what they don’t need is people tromping over their burrows, getting too close or bothering them for too long.

Mia

Here is a neat Burrowing Owl cam out of Florida to view.

For more information on the ethics of photographing nesting birds or chicks: the Principles of Birding Ethics published by the American Birding Association. Also NANPA’s Ethical Practices (pdf)