The Second Owl — the one that perches in plain view in the central circle of the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary — lives in the middle of a Ground Squirrel village. I’ve seen as many as six of the furry mammals scurrying, playing, and munching within two or three yards of the bird. The scene looks like recess at kindergarten. Very occasionally a squirrel gets too close and gnaws through the owl’s last nerve, and then the bird takes up a menacing stance, spreading its wings to make itself look big, and looking fierce. But mostly the bird/mammal encounters are like the one in this video: quiet and peaceful. In the wild, squirrels nest and breed in Ground Squirrel colonies (or Prairie Dog sites) and the two species have a mutually beneficial relationship. The squirrels are too big for the owls to attack, and they’re skilled at self-defense, for example against snakes. Also, they way outnumber the owls, should it come to hostilities. So the squirrels show absolutely no fear of the owls. The owls in turn know that the squirrels are almost entirely vegetarian, though they’ll snag a bit of protein here and there, so the owls have no fear of the furry critters. Owls and squirrels together can put on a show that keeps us humans entertained.
- Paired Up
- The Other Phoebe