OWLS OF ABACO (2): BURROWING OWLS – RARE VISITORS
The Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia is a small owl found in the open landscapes of North and South America. Their natural habitat is in grasslands, agricultural areas, and other open dry areas with low vegetation – even deserts. They nest and roost in burrows. Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are often active during the day, though they do most of their hunting from dusk until dawn when they can make use of their excellent night vision and acute hearing.
On Abaco, this little owl is a rare vagrant, presumably visiting from Florida which has the nearest resident population. There have been few reported sightings; and for ‘The Birds of Abaco’ we were unable to locate a photo taken on Abaco. The main images featured here were taken by me of a rescue bird that is used in wonderful free-flying displays. As you can see, it is in prime condition.
STOP PRESS Sept 27 Alison Ball from Little Harbour, Abaco has kindly contacted me to say “I saw a burrowing owl sometime during the first week of October last year here in Little Harbour. I was watching some parrots eating the berries in the top of a large ficus tree by the edge of the road, and suddenly realized that the owl was sitting on a lower branch of the same tree, right at my eye level and only about 8 feet away. We stared at each other for at least a minute – plenty long enough to get a definite identification – then he flapped off into the woods. It was about 8 a.m.” Any other reports of sightings would be very welcome.
In the next photos you can see the bulging eye lenses
A DOZEN QUICK BURROWING OWL FACTS FOR SHORT ATTENTION SPANS
- They have spectacular eyebrows above their piercing yellow eyes
- When hunting, they use a perch to spot prey, then swoop down on it; or ‘hawk’ for insects in flight
- Their long legs enable them to chase prey on the ground when hunting in open terrain
- Burrowing owls mainly eat large insects and small rodents and reptiles
- Unlike other owls, they also eat fruits and seeds
- When agitated or excited, they bob their heads
- They are one of the few avian species that benefit from deforestation
- The owls often return to the same burrow nest each year
- A major cause of mortality is vehicle-strike as they cross roads
- Prehistoric fossil remains have been found in the Bahamas, showing they were once resident
- There are many subspecies including a Floridian one, where they are ‘of special concern’
- Florida Atlantic University campus is a National Audubon Society designated burrowing owl sanctuary
If anyone has seen one of these little guys anywhere on Abaco, I’d love to know when and where…
Credits: RH, Alan Vernon & Tom Friedel Wiki, Andrea Rich, Cornell Lab, Defenders.org