Saturday, July 28, 2012

Barn Owl

My Arizona neighbor, Terry Taylor and I were walking down the Big Wash looking for birds.  Actually only I was looking for birds, he was looking for rocks.  He is a rock hound, meteorite mostly…there’re surprisingly common. I was looking up for birds and he was looking down for rocks, so he had the rattlesnake problem solved for both of us.

We were quietly passing a bluff where I knew a pair of Barn Owls lived.  I never expected them to come out to challenge us at 10 o’clock in the morning, but they did. They’re usually quiet and secretive during the day, but ‘hissy’ at night.  Whenever I passed their nest at dusk they would take flight and fly in wide circles, hissing and screaming.  I was happy to see them, although the feeling wasn’t shared. 

               This male Barn Owl is sleeping at the entrance to his bluff nest cavity.  

                Startled awake by the sound of the camera shutter, he flew off. 

                                 He kept a close eye on me.

The female Barn Owl is in a small, but unique group of birds where the female is more colorful than the male.  The male Barn Owl has a mostly white underside and is less colorful overall.  This female camouflages well with her surroundings; she just happens to live in a colorful place.

                She squints to get a better view of me in this picture taken at night.
I can’t explain why that works for her, but Barn Owls have excellent low-light eyesight, so she could certainly see me a hundred feet away.   Maybe she felt more curious than threatened.  Barn Owls are able to capture prey in lab produced total darkness, using only sound, so their hearing is excellent too.

Barn Owls are widespread.  They exist on all the continents except Antarctica and man has introduced them onto many islands.  You just have to be lucky to see one during the day.

April 24-30, 2012