Burrowing Owls – They Make Me Smile

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When I photograph Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) I can’t resist smiling, especially when they are juveniles. Just seeing them makes me grin.

Burrowing Owl chicks on SagebrushBurrowing Owl chicks on Sagebrush – Nikon D200, f11, 1/250, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

These chicks were perched on a Sagebrush not long after the sun had risen. They are fairly young but able to fly. The creamy colored chest lacks the spots of darker brown that older juveniles have. Before I began to photograph these juveniles I changed my aperture to f11 to get the birds in the depth of field so that they would both be sharp, it worked out quite well.

The owlet on the left side of the frame didn’t stick around long but I was able to get several shots of the two of them that I liked.



  1. Larry Jordan July 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    As you already know Mia, Burrowing Owls are very special to me and I spend a lot of time trying to bring their numbers back up in California. These juveniles are so precious, I can’t even express to you how beautiful your Burrowing Owl photographs are to me. Not only do I smile whenever I am able to see a Burrowing Owl, I feel warm and fuzzy all over 😉 Did I say that out loud? I love these owls!!

    • Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 10:59 am

      Larry, I must admit there are times I just want to hug a juvenile Burrowing Owl because they give me the warm fuzzies too, but I resist hugging them!

      I hope that through research, hard work and people like you that the Burrowing Owls in the west will be able to make a comeback. They (and many other birds species) are TOO precious to lose.

      Thank you for your very kind words on my Burrowing Owl images.

  2. Tammy Karr July 4, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Great captures Mia! So adorable, love those eyes!!

    • Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

      Thank you Tammy, those eyes could launch a thousand ships! 🙂

  3. Kathiesbirds July 3, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    They make me smile too, Mia! Perfect lighting!

  4. Julie Brown July 3, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I will never pass up an opportunity to look at photos of Burrowing Owls. Nice detail and beautiful light. You can tell its low light by the size of their pupils.

    • Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 10:44 am

      Thanks Julie, I like ti when the pupils of these owls are dilated because it seem to make their eyes look even bigger!

  5. Ingrid July 3, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Mia, if I got a shot like this, I’d feel as though I could hang up my camera. What an extraordinary capture! And I’m with you on Burrowing Owls … they are incredible birds and photographic subjects.

    • Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Thans Ingrid. I hope you get shots of Burrowing Owls but I also hope you don’t hang up your camera when you do, the world is better because of your images and blog posts.

  6. Laurence Butler July 3, 2012 at 12:40 am

    Love love love em’. You always have the best presentation and photos Burrowing Owls : )

    • Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Thank you Laurence, have you been practicing on what methods to use to make me blush?? 😉 They are so cute that making them look good is easy.

  7. Susan July 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Wonderful poses and photo, I notice one of them has already been banded, so cool:)

    • Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Susan, as far as I could tell all of the juveniles were banded. Thanks so much for your comment.

  8. Scott (@NESASK) July 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Look at those little fluffballs! I see the bird on the right is banded. Beautiful light and soft colors in this shot, Mia.

    • Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 10:38 am

      Scott, When I first saw that the juveniles were banded I was disappointed (whoever banded them didn’ ask me! 😉 ) but I know that research needs to be done with Burrowing Owls in the west because populations are declining. They are little fluffballs! Thanks.

  9. Carol Mattingly July 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    They look so inquisitive. I love the colors in this shot. Carol

    • Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 10:36 am

      Thanks Carol, I do find Burrowing Owl juveniles to be very inquisitive.

  10. Tami Vogel July 2, 2012 at 11:57 am

    You must have had a blast photographing these owls, Mia! You certainly captured personalities in your images – they’re incredible.

  11. Stu July 2, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Owls are wonderful.. and I agree it is the eyes that grab us when we see them. great shot Mia

    • Mia McPherson July 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks Stu, their eyes are magnets!

      • Azstu July 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm

        I find after looking into owls eyes for a few minutes, I begin to plan bank holdups and visualize filling the bags with cash…. just for a few minutes,,, whilst captivated.. then it passes 😉

        • Mia McPherson July 5, 2012 at 10:36 am

          LOL Stu! They mesmerizie you with those big eyes.

  12. Linda Rockwell July 2, 2012 at 7:34 am

    These little chicks are adorable Mia! What fun to see them. <3

    • Mia McPherson July 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks Linda, I love all owls but Burrowing Owls are a favorite of mine!

  13. Julie G. July 2, 2012 at 7:18 am

    This wonderful post brought a big smile to my face. They really are special birds. Those big, yellow eyes really pull you in. Superb photograph of these cuties! Great lighting, crispness and detail.

    • Mia McPherson July 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Thanks Julie, Burrowing Owls make for great subjects and it isn’t hard to make them look adorable!

  14. Dan Huber July 2, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Very nice photo Mia. There is something about there facial “expression” that always makes me smile too, they are sooo cute.

    • Mia McPherson July 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Dan, thanks for commenting on these Burrwing Owl juvies. I agree, they are sooo cute!

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