Juvenile Burrowing Owls Do Change Their Spots

/, Birds, Box Elder County, Burrowing Owls, Davis County, Utah/Juvenile Burrowing Owls Do Change Their Spots

A young Burrowing Owl fluttering on a fenceA young Burrowing Owl fluttering on a fence – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited (June 22, 2015)

Leopards don’t change their spots but juvenile Burrowing Owls do change their spots on their chests as they mature. When the young Burrowing Owls first come out of the burrow their chests are a creamy buff color without markings.

Serious looking juvie Burrowing OwlSerious looking juvie Burrowing Owl – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited (July 27, 2009)

As the juveniles grow older darker colored bars start to appear in their belly close to the wings. It doesn’t seem to take long for the changes to happen.

A juvenile Burrowing Owl perched on a gnarly fence postA juvenile Burrowing Owl perched on a gnarly fence post – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited (July 13, 2015)

The darker bars are soon joined by spots of lighter colored feathers and the changes in the plumage seem to start at the sides and move towards the center of their chests.

The first and third images in this post are owls I am photographing this year at the same burrow and the images were taken 21 days apart. They might even be the same owl.

A Burrowing Owl juvenile looking up into the skyA Burrowing Owl juvenile looking up into the sky – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited (August 2, 2009)

Before long the flanks are all spotted and there is only a buffy colored stripe in the center of their chests.

Three juvenile Burrowing OwlsThree juvenile Burrowing Owls – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/250, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited (August 21, 2009)

In a few weeks time the chests of young burrowing owls can go from unmarked to spotted all the way across the chest and down the belly.

These images are from different years and two separate burrow locations and I used them because the juvenile Burrowing Owls I am photographing this year haven’t matured enough to show all their spots.

Life is good.

Mia

I don’t know if the Burrowing Owls in Florida show the same plumage changes as they mature.

6 Comments

  1. Utahbooklover July 15, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for the great images and information on these interesting owls.

  2. Elephant's Child July 14, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    They melt my heart whatever their plumage…

  3. Humming Bird Lover July 14, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Hi! love them, love it you show them little cuties real often! have a great day shooting!

  4. Dennis July 14, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Very instructive series, Mia. I’m interested in learning more about how to age burrowing owls so I look forward to more posts on the current burrow you are following. I have searched for literature references on the subject but, so far, I have come up short. How old do you think the bird is in the first photo?

  5. Roger Burnard July 14, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Mia, you are getting some really great images… I love owls, and I especially love these little guys.
    Thanks for my morning smile… ;-)))

  6. Patty Chadwick July 14, 2015 at 7:56 am

    This a wonderful series…shows the transitions so well. Very unteresting. You can easily see how the spotted breasts help them blend into their on the ground surroundings,,,great camouflage….

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