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Burrowing Owls

I've been hiking/Mtn Biking weekdays in the predawn hours before work.

I see small birds (large) eyes reflecting (orange) on the road side or on the trails and XC routes.

Being O dark thirty and these small birds flying off into the brush I could never get any identifying information.

On my Friday AM (3/28/2014) Hike One of these birds patiently posed while I carefully approached within 2 feet.

No camera at the ready (drat!) (double drat!!) But it had all the features of an Owl.

I'm no expert but given the size and behaviour  it has to be a Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl Family group
Ned Harris, AZ, Tucson, June 2009

I had no Idea! Exciting stuff!

From looking at photos of burrowing owls now, I think what I have been seeing on camera in the Verdugos are the same - rather than screech owls, which is what I thought from their small size.  

The owls I get on cam don't have ear tufts though.
Mike P

Are you hiking/biking in the Verdugos, Matt?

CM, I don't believe that burrowing owls are found in the Verdugos. They have very specific habitat needs which aren't typically found in that range. Could you, or Matt, be seeing lesser nighthawks or common poorwhills?

The closest areas where I have seen burrowing owls are on some of the old dairy lands in Chino.

Also, CM, could you post a picture or two of those birds you are seeing??

Mike P wrote:
Are you hiking/biking in the Verdugos, Matt?

Yes this is in the Verdugos...

I'd have to take some time to research the other options. But the most striking feature that clinched it for me was the shape and feathers around the eyes

There did seem to be a small vestigial ear tufts and the coloring was very good match for the photos. This blended into the ground very well.

The behaviour of staying put also seems in character with burrowing owls where they would dive into their burrow rather than fly away.

But I'm not expert either

Perhaps they are immature owls of some sort? There are many more owls now making all sorts of owl noises

Mom and Dad taking the youngsters out to hunt?

Mike P wrote:
lesser nighthawks or common poorwhills?

Maybe and no

Map of reported burrowing owl sightings in the L.A. area...;bmo=1&emo=12&yr=last10
Mike P

HikeUp, That's nice!!! Didn't know that map existed...

Burrowing owls are generally a valley and grassland bird as the map sitings prove.

I used to see the owls on the UC Davis campus daily... cool birds!

They were / are very prominent on the Long Beach Airport and Skylinks Golf Course where I grew up.
The frogmouths also have that habit of not immediately flying off.

Here's one video.  I have better stuff, just takes me a while to find the ones that aren't cats.  

For scale, this bird is about 6-8 inches 'tall'.  (Just from knowing this spot and the size of the rock he's on).


Mike P

Nice videos, CM!!  Definitely not burrowing owls... my vote is still for Western Screech Owl. Pygmy Owls have dark "false" eyes behind their necks. The other owl species in these mountains are much bigger.

The owl in the last video kindly spun around to allow a full view. Awesome!

Thanks Mike.  Matt, have your camera ready on the next hike....

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing owl seen on the North Ridge Trail in Chino Hills on December 1, 2001. Forum Index -> Flora & Fauna & Fungi
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