An educator and naturalist, Jim Gain is also a superb photographer. We’re proud to publish his series, “Learn 100 Common Valley Birds.” Here is post #19. Be sure to visit Reflections of the Natural World for more of Jim’s fine work. ed.
The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is a small, ground-dwelling owl that is native to North and South America. In the Central Valley of California, Burrowing Owls can be found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, agricultural fields, and urban areas. They are easily recognized by their long legs, short tails, and small size, typically measuring between 7-10 inches in length and weighing around 6 ounces.
Burrowing Owls are named for their habit of nesting in abandoned rodent burrows, which they often modify by adding grasses and feathers to create a soft nest lining. They are primarily active during the day, and can often be seen perching on fence posts or other elevated objects, scanning the surrounding area for prey. Their diet consists mainly of insects, small rodents, and other small animals.
Burrowing Owls face a number of threats in the Central Valley, including habitat loss due to development and agriculture, as well as predation by domestic and feral cats. Conservation efforts, such as the creation of artificial burrows and the implementation of predator control programs, have helped to stabilize some populations. Overall, the Burrowing Owl is an important and fascinating species that plays an important role in the ecology of the Central Valley.
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