Thursday, September 8, 2011

Burrowing Owl: does it have ear tuft?

I took these pics just a few days ago of a Burrowing Owl in a prairie dog town in some nice short grass prairie in Crowley County, Colorado. I didn't notice until I uploaded these pics that it appears to have 'ear tufts,'(not part of ear structure but tufts of feathers) a characteristic this species of owl is not supposed to have. I have checked "North American Owls: Biology and Natural History" (2nd Ed) by the well respected ornithologist Johnsgard and it said this species is without ear tufts. I also checked a number of online sites including Cornell's 'All About Birds' and they all noted that Burrowing Owls do not have ear tufts. That is with the exception of a 1981 article "Adaptive Significance of Ear Tufts in Owls which listed Burrowing Owl as one of the species with ear tufts. Now one could maybe disregard this rather old single study except that it was published in the prestigious ornithological journal Condor.
Be sure to click on each photo to enlarge further then click again for super enlarge to view 'ear tufts' up close. Note: 'ear tuft on right side of owl's head is set further back than the one on the left side. So is this bird an anomaly? Are these not true ear tufts? Could an article that made it into Condor be in error about Burrowing Owls having ear tufts????? SeEtta
 9-11-11 Post Note:  It was suggested by Christian Nunes that these feathers on top of this bird's head are not real ear tufts but just feathers that are amiss.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Standoff-"It's my doggie" or Red-tailed Hawk vs magpies and vulture

I spotted this strange assortment of birds in a prairie-dog town in Otero County. The Red-tailed Hawk had nailed a prairie-dog and was clutching it in it's foot while Black-billed Magpies and a Turkey Vulture brazenly crowded the pressured hawk. When the hawk flew a short distance it was followed by the magpies and another vulture that had been circling. Given the terrible drought that has plagued this area all summer it would seem that scavengers like these magpies and vultures are emboldened. SeEtta

Migrating sandpipers: sewage ponds



Yesterday we had the first truly cool day, only in the 70's, in more than 2 months so I drove down to the lower Arkansas Valley (which has been in upper 90's to 100+) to look for migrating birds.  I stopped at Fowler Sewage Ponds where I found the best assortment and number of migrating shorebirds this trip--there is nothing like sewer ponds for shorebird action. 

I was delighted to find several, at least 3 or 4 Solitary Sandpipers in various sections of these sewage ponds including the one in the top pic. The bottom pic shows one of the Semipalmated Sandpipers--CORRECTION: this is a juvenile Least Sandpiper (thanks to Christian Nunes for catching this). Also there were Western and Baird's Sandpipers, a few Greater Yellowlegs, dozens of Killdeer and some Wilson's Phalarope. SeEtta