Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Animals in their habitat: Burrowing Owls
Animals in their habitat: 'Burrowing Owls'. These little long-legged owls are fun to watch and don't seem to mind posing for photos and sketches. They like to take over burrows of rodents or just irrigation pipes, so they can be found in the Avra Valley fields where Pima Cotton is grown (hence the uninspired background). But they are versatile and according to literature once lived in all open spaces of the Americas (not in the tundra, though, I'd guess). They are day active b...ut do most of their hunting at dawn and dusk. They perch and swoop or just jump and run after insects, lizards and small rodents, occasionally birds. Supposedly they bring cattle dung to their nest to attract dung beetles. But I know dung beetles: they like it fresh. So I doubt that interpretation of the behavior. Another behavior seems easier to understand: from inside their burrow, incubating females often make hissing and rattling noises very similar to that of a rattle snake. Rattlers also sleep in burrows. So the imitation seems like a good sound-based Batesian mimicry that might keep a badger or coyote from getting too inquisitory.