Birds of South Florida series
On any given Sunday, or any other day for that matter, all you have to do is visit your local park in South Florida to discover one of the most unique and interesting creatures around. South Florida’s mottled brown burrowing owls have adapted to the heavy urban demands here like no other!
These unassuming and curious creatures may only range in size between 7.5 and 10 inches but, as they say, dynamite comes in small packages! This tenacious little bird proves that it is a survivor, even in this over-developed concrete jungle.
Although these birds have claws especially designed for grasping and digging, usually the burrowing owl will take over a burrow that has already been dug out by another animal. Why do all that hard work if it’s already been done for you?
They are very capable, however. Plumes of sand are often observed around burrow entrances as they constantly excavate and otherwise modify their underground homes.
Burrowing owls are carnivorous, preying on small mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Insects also make up a large part of their diet. Interestingly enough, since burrowing owls nest in mostly open grass areas, they have developed longer legs, enabling them to sprint in pursuit of prey along with flying.
Here in Florida, in most public places, it would be hard to miss their nests since they are usually marked once found. This creates public awareness so that people can observe them from a distance. In this way, the birds can go about their daily activities uninhibited.
Please be aware of owl nests in your area and respect the barriers. If you are too close to a nest, you may observe the birds making a hissing or clicking sound. They may bob their heads, stamp their feet or display their wings. If you witness any of this kind of behavior, you may be too close. Please respect the animal’s space.
These birds have shown remarkable adaptability in extreme urban settings, but their habitat is still fragile. We all can contribute by doing our part, maintaining habitat for them, being aware, and respecting their personal space.
These creatures are intelligent and curious, bold but cautious. If you visit an area where these fascinating creatures reside, keep your eyes open and your cameras ready. They may soon be coming to a park near you!
Have you ever wondered what a burrowing owl sounds like? To find out, check out Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website here.
Would you like to see more pictures of individual owls with unique personalities? Please follow the link here to the burrowing owl photo gallery.