Burrowing Owls – Friday Photos

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I’ve selected a few Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) images taken a few years ago to post today.

Burrowing Owl juvenileBurrowing Owl juvenile – Nikon D200, f8, 1/400, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This juvenile Burrowing Owl posed very nicely in the light of the rising sun on Antelope Island State Park. I love those bright yellow eyes and the long rictal bristles surrounding the curved beak.

Adult Burrowing OwlAdult Burrowing Owl – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 200, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Adult western Burrowing Owls have paler plumage than the juveniles, lighter barring on the chest and always seem to me to be more serious looking than the juveniles who can at times appear to be quite clownish. I’ve heard them called the “Clowns of the western deserts”.

Peekaboo Burrowing Owl fledglingPeekaboo Burrowing Owl fledgling – Nikon D200, f8, 1/250, ISO 200, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

There used to be a burrow on Antelope Island State Park where Burrowing Owls could be seen and photographed  frequently from the road but that appears to be no longer the case. Last year there was an incident involving a few photographers walking on top of the burrow that may have caused the burrow to be abandoned, or worse; they may have crushed the burrow while walking on it and killed an adult that may have been inside because after that incident I only ever saw one adult owl near it and it seemed in distress for several weeks as it sounded frequent alarm calls from the tops of Sagebrush near the burrow.  More about that incident can be read here and here.

It is my dream to find more Burrowing Owls to photograph this year. They are beautiful, interesting and entertaining owls to observe and photograph.

Mia Save the Owls Project


  1. Linda Rockwell April 7, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Wonderful photos Mia! I grew up in an area where Prairie Dogs and Burrowing Owls were abundant, and there were many in the Albuquerque area when I first moved here. Sadly, human encroachment has significantly reduced the numbers of both species here. 🙁

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Linda, human encroachment does often reduce the numbers of Burrowing Owls and that is sad. Thanks for your very kind words on these images.

  2. Scott April 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Beautiful shots, Mia. I’ve never had the good fortune of seeing one of these birds. They can be found at Grasslands National Park in the south of the province. I’d like to spend some time there one of these days. Sad to hear of the insensitivity and downright stupidity of the photographers you saw encroaching on the owls, right up to walking right on the burrows.

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      Scott, you would adore seeing and photographing Burrowing Owls so I hope you get to Grasslands National Park to see them. As much as you love owls I know they would enchant you.

  3. Julie Brown April 6, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    The thought of people crushing the owl in the burrow is just heart-breaking. I do hope that they come back to Antelope Island. I got to see and photograph Burrowing Owls for the first time last week in Cape Coral, but not in such beautiful habitat. They are just so cute and sweet. I loved spending time with them.

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      Julie, I hope those people don’t come back to the island either. I’m looking forward to see your Florida Burrowing Owl images on your site!

  4. Kathiesbirds April 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    What beautiful shots! The lighting was indeed perfect. How sad to hear about how someone disturbed the nest! It makes me so angry! Respect for wildlife should always come before anyone’s desire for that “perfect” shot! Now they have ruined it not only for the owls, but for the others who respectfully enjoyed them!

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Kathie, you hit the nail on the head, those “photographers” didn’t just ruin it for the owls but for the rest of us who loved to see and photograph them. Thanks for your comment on these images too.

  5. Julie G. April 6, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Oh Mia, the Burrowing Owls are such beautiful creatures! I would love to see one in person. The yellow eyes are so very captivating. Your photographs, as always, are magical! So sorry to hear about the irresponsible photographers thinking only of themselves and not of the owls. This saddens me greatly.

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      Julie, I hope you get to see some Burrowing Owls in person, I am certain you will be captivated by them. Thanks for your very kind words on my images.

  6. Susan April 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Stunning photos of a beautiful little owl. I hope you get to see and photograph them again this year:)

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Susan, thanks very much for your kind comment on these images. I hope to see & photograph more of them soon.

  7. Tammy Karr April 6, 2012 at 11:45 am

    These are absolutely beautiful images Mia! The Burrowing Owl has such captivating eyes! It is very sad to hear of the outcome of this burrow.

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Thank you for your very kind comment Tammy.

  8. Laurence Butler April 6, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Love your Burrowing Owl photos Mia. I’ve never seen their like elsewhere. That’s a tragedy about the wrecked burrow…oh the thin line we walk between publicizing and appreciating birds before encroaching too much.

    Nothing gets the Friday mood going though like some quirky juvenile Burrowers. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks for commenting on this post Laurence, I am glad you enjoyed my Burrowing Owl images. It is a tradgedy about the other burrow. I hope to see more of these owls soon.

  9. Steve Gent April 6, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Love the shot of the owl fledgling on one leg. Great birds to observe, I
    saw some young in Florida in the middle of housing fighting over a leg of some prey item. I really enjoyed watching them, even though they were not close enough to photograph with my camera the watching was enough.

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Steve, even if I couldn’t photograph these little beauties I would still have a great time watching them. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Jim Braswell April 6, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Awesome captures, Mia. I’ve only photographed them during one trip to the Southwest, but looking forward for more fun with them! They are so comical as they bounce around and bobbing up/down :o)

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Thanks Jim, they are great subjects and they can be very comical!

  11. Carol Mattingly April 6, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Beautiful images Mia. These owls look so serene. I read more of your story on loving the owls to death and just hate what the people did. So sad. Carol

    • Mia McPherson April 6, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Carol, thanks for your comments on these images and on my previous posts about Burrowing Owls. I still feed sad or angry when I go past the burrow that was disturbed and I deeply miss seeing the adults perched on that Sagebrush and the young owls near the burrow.

  12. Beverly Everson April 6, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Incredible shots, Mia! That last one with the lovely bokeh is just fabulous!!! I’ve only seen one of these birds IRL and it was from a long distance. Well done!

    • Mia McPherson April 6, 2012 at 8:58 am

      Beverly, I hope you will be able to see more Burrowing Owls, they are endearing & beautiful. Thanks for your comment.

  13. judy watson April 6, 2012 at 6:20 am

    Mia….these are fantastic!!

  14. Steve Creek April 6, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Great captures Mia and to bad about the burrow. I have only seen these owls one time and it was on a camping trip in New Mexico. It seemed to be in distress so I just left the area without even trying to take photos. I wished people would know the signs of when wildlife need to be left alone and do the right thing.

    • Mia McPherson April 6, 2012 at 8:56 am

      Steve, thanks for commenting on the Burrowing Owl images. I hope that you see more of this species soon, they are great fun to photograph. I also wish that more people could realize when they are stressing wildlife and back away. For me a photo is not as important as the subject’s comfort/health.

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