OWLS OF ABACO (2): BURROWING OWLS – RARE VISITORS


Burrowing Owl 1

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. 

ABACO SIGHTINGS REPORTED SINCE THIS POST

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.

STOP PRESS Nov 5 Keith Kemp, with his sharp-eyed daughter Emily (11), saw one at the side of the road near Cherokee after dusk – possibly the Little Harbour one? It was Emily – already a promising birder, I gather – who first said ‘…it’s a little owl – he’s so cute’. Spot-on, too, Emily. The only other candidate for Abaco, the Barn Owl, could not be described as ‘little’. 

STOP PRESS 2016 NEW POST Burrowing Owls on Elbow Cay HERE

RANGE MAP

athe_cuni_AllAm_map

Burrowing Owl 1a

In the next photos you can see the bulging eye lensesBurrowing Owl 5Burrowing Owl 2

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
Show us, I hear you ask, a burrowing owl in a typical burrow for which it is namedBurrowing Owl Alan Vernon Wikimedia

Burrowing Owls may get quickly fed up with being photographed…Burrowing Owl 6

“Oh, do stop. I’ve had enough of you”Burrowing Owl 8 Burrowing Owl 9

“Right. I can’t see you anymore. You are sooooo gone”Burrowing Owl 3

The Burrowing Owl featured in a 1991 Bahamas bird stamp seriesBurrowing Owl - Bahamas - Animal Vista

I rather like this woodcut by Andrea RichBurrowing Owls woodcut 1987 andrea rich.com

Burrowing_Owl_Florida (Tom Friedel Wiki)

If anyone has seen one of these little guys anywhere on Abaco, I’d love to know when and where… [Now see the 2 stop press sightings near the start of this post]

RELATED POSTS

Credits: RH, Alan Vernon & Tom Friedel Wiki, Andrea Rich, Cornell Lab, Defenders.org

14 thoughts on “OWLS OF ABACO (2): BURROWING OWLS – RARE VISITORS

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  3. I saw a bird today perched (almost lying down) on a branch at the Abaco Club, Winding Bay. How can I send you a photo?

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      • That’s fantastic! It sounds like they are fairly rare, so I’m especially glad we saw him!!

        (416) 904-6973

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      • Not rare so much as (a) only around in the summer and even then (b) very hard to spot – they are well camouflaged in trees or on stony ground. So it was a very good ‘get’ by you! I’ve only seen their wonderful evening feeding display once, in mid-June, deep into open backcountry on the right hand side of the Highway (going south) right over towards the Marls. Not sure I could even find the place again! From Winding Bay, I wonder if you have ever had dinner at the Delphi Club? Closing for the season right now, reopens in October. Indeed maybe see you there one day! RH

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      • Hi Keith,

        Thanks for the info.

        Today we also saw a hummingbird perched on a branch cooling his wings, and several lovely visits with a very talented mocking bird.

        This is our first trip to Abaco (my brother was kind enough to loan us his place at the Abaco Club). Between the turtles on Sugar Key and the amazing birds on Winding Bay, I can’t wait to come back!

        Thanks again for being such a great resource!

        Kelly and Keith Baker

        (416) 904-6973

        >

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  4. Pingback: Texas barn owls, video | Dear Kitty. Some blog

    • Oh good grief no, thanks for the link, that is… adorbz, does one say? I’m in Dorset and there are 4 barn owls calling / hunting right now – I’ve just seen one on a telegraph pole outside the kitchen door. Not many of them in Chiswick!

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