Saturday, April 29, 2017

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owls are common, yet seldom seen. This adult female with staring yellow eyes seems to prefer things that way.

If you see an owl in the daytime it's probably resting comfortably or startled into fleeing.

Owls are around us all the time, they're just reluctant to let you know, YOU'RE the one being watched.

Hiding in a hole seems a smart way to pass the daylight hours.

I unknowingly startled two resting Great Horned Owls as I passed under this bridge one morning.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

They flew away, but not far away. That's an odd behavior, but it presented a great picture opportunity for me.

Male Great Horned Owls are slightly smaller than females, though with a deeper voice. The males advertise their presence in late winter/early spring with deep hooting nighttime calls. The females respond if they like the male's beckoning with a soft return hoot. Soon after there will be baby owls.

This male seemed a bit cross, but accepted my presence as I respected his.

The reason he was staying nearby was sitting underneath on a bridge support. One of two offspring remained when the adults left.

With eyes wide open in amazement the young owl stared back at me in a seemingly confused state of stay-or-go.

The male in the tree departed when he learned all he needed to know about me.

It's was back to the bridge to check on his straggling youngster.

It's not likely the Great Horned Owls nested or raised their young under the bridge. Rather they stopped to rest for the day in a cool dark place. There was an active Raven's nest at the opposite end of the bridge and that would have been an untenable arrangement for all. Both species are known nest robbers given an opportunity.

So, it's likely the Great Horned Owl's best chance for a successful next generation is remaining seldom seen.

Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
Sibley's Guide to Birds

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is the ubiquitous, but seldom seen, owl of the nighttime. If you see one in the daylight it was probably flushed...fortunate for you, but a nuisance for the owl.

Most birds, Barn Owls included, don't have the luxury of sleeping as we know it. There is too much danger in their world to rest unaware of their surroundings.

Nevertheless, a 'morning' stretch (sunset actually) feels good.

(see below)
Gravelly footsteps signaled someone approaching. The Big Wash in Arizona is a dry riverbed for most of the year, making it hard to sneak up on a resting owl.

Both male and female flew away in ghostly whooshes, luckily, not that far away. This leads me to believe they are hiding something in a cliff crevice.

I was sorry for disrupting their crevice-in-a-cliff home, but I wanted to see them in early evening light.

The male returns to check out this new intrusion. It's nesting season so he wants to know the comings and goings of strangers.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

These beautiful owls with heart-shaped faces are more aware of people than we are of them. Barn Owls populate the world in 46 different races*.

Unless you trespass into their comfort zone they won't acknowledge your passing. They have nothing to gain in giving their presence away.

The larger and slightly more colorful female is on the right. The male is on the left.

With little likelihood of ever seeing what they are hiding deep in their cliff crevice, we can only hope for another generation of beautiful Barn Owls like these.

Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 
All About Birds
Sibley's Guide to Birds 

*What is the Difference between Race and Ethnicity? Race is associated with biology, whereas ethnicity is associated with culture. In biology, races are genetically distinct populations within the same species; they typically have relatively minor morphological and genetic differences.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


The glossy black desert bird with a commanding treetop presence and a taste for mistletoe berries is the Phainopepla.

Gleaming black from tip to tail this medium sized songbird doesn't retreat.

Instead he proudly sings his varied song, sometimes including the songs of other birds.

(pronounced: fay-no-PEP-la)

His pretty partner is also a stand-out. She's feathered in subtle shades of brown trimmed with white.

They both have bright red eyes and a crest.

In flight, Phainopeplas show still another dimension. Hidden at rest, but brilliant in the air, white wingtips flash with every beat.

Yet the Phainopepla is not only about show. They can have two broods of young per year if conditions are right. That demands a great deal of teamwork from this pair.

Even if their nests aren't elaborate, raising two broods a year requires substantial food gathering.

Here a female is returning to her well hidden nest with an insect.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

The male waits nearby with his food offering.

While glancing right... to check my intentions, she flashes her wings repeatedly to frighten an insect into revealing itself.

The Phainopepla is well suited for the hot dry desert. Phainopeplas rarely drinks water. Mistletoe berries provide their moisture requirement.

Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds