Furry Friends

California Ground Squirrels (Otospermophilus beecheyi) and Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

The Burrowing Owl in the park was back in Perch A this morning. Yesterday morning my video camera caught the bird alarmed by something and flying off screen to parts unknown. It was reassuring to see it back.

This morning the owl had a lot of company. At least five Ground Squirrels came to check it out. The owl is probably as much a novelty and an attraction to them as it is to us humans. Moreover, the bird is squatting in what they consider their home territory. They don’t consider it prey, being mainly vegetarians, and they don’t feel threatened, being bigger and heavier than the bird. So their interest in the owl is a matter of curiosity more than anxiety.

The owl ignored the first three squirrels that came close to have a peek at it. But the next one, which looked to be a bit bossy toward the other squirrels, got the owl’s dander up. The bird went into a defensive spread stance as soon as that squirrel showed up. A few minutes later, with the others out of the picture, the owl faced off directly against the bossy rodent. It spread its wings and made itself as big as it could, and even advanced a step or two toward the squirrel. The squirrel wasn’t exactly terrified, far from it, but decided after a few moments that getting into a dustup with the bird wasn’t worth it, and it retreated. The owl, pleased with itself, resumed its relaxed one-foot stance.

A bit later, another squirrel appeared, probably the same one that has been a frequent companion to the owl. The owl displayed some alarm behaviors, standing tall with eyes wide round. This was not directed at the squirrel. The squirrel, which has very keen senses as well, didn’t echo any signs of alarm. Shortly, the owl settled down, and with the squirrel watching, drifted into a short bird nap.

California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) and Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

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2 thoughts on “Furry Friends

  • I agree! Great capture of fierce defiant little owl, and reconsidering ground squirrel! Reminds me of other video you’ve captured of a burrowing owl (this one?) doing this to much larger birds, even a hawk! And nice to see it contrasted with the neutral and easy coexistence that seems to be the norm between the owl and the ground squirrels.

  • So wonderful to see this defensive burrowing owl display!

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