The female adult burrowing owl stretches her wings near the natal burrow. Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, CO. Athene cunicularia
You’d think a prairie dog town would be quiet at 4:30 a.m., but the birds are up, Western meadowarks singing back and forth in the high grass around the edges. I listen from my hunting blind and hear the first chatter from one of the adult burrowing owls who use this prairie patch for spring and summer. And I watch the natal burrow where the chicks are, waiting for when they’ll emerge from the burrow and view the world for the first time. As the sun warms the shortgrass prairie, black-tailed prairie dogs stand on their burrows and chatter, eventually deciding it’s safe enough for the youngsters to come out too – they’re getting big and it’s not so easy to tell the pups from the adults. The female owl came close to my blind and went down a different burrow; then the male came to make a cricket food delivery to the same burrow. Did they change burrows? The natal burrow has fresh coyote scat around the top – I wonder what that means. I’ll be back in a few days to observe and learn from these amusing creatures.
One of the young black-tailed prairie dogs has already learned the jump-yip.
The male adult burrowing owl delivers a cricket to the burrow. In early June, the male is bleached from hunting in the mid-day sun, while the female is darker from sitting on eggs underground. In a few weeks they’ll look identical.