Owl Learning

Second Owl resurfacing after hawk attack (Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia)

Once again this morning a raptor swooped low over the northeast corner of the park, and the Second Owl that resides on the surface there dove for cover into the Ground Squirrel hole where it perches. The raptor, probably a Cooper’s Hawk, continued on toward the west and settled on a low bush. A mob of about 10 – 12 crows spotted it there and mobbed it. The hawk, chased by the crows, raced eastward and found shelter in a willow tree, its dense tangle of branches forming a cage that kept the crows at bay. When the crows cleared out, the hawk began a preening session. It perched there long enough for me to set up the camera at a better angle and get some long-distance images.

The Burrowing Owl’s disappearing act came as a disappointment to several park visitors who arrived just then, hoping to see this bird. However, unlike the other day when the owl stayed out of sight for more than an hour (“AWOL Owl OK,” Nov. 13 2021), this time it popped back up in about 15 – 20 minutes. It looks like the owl learned that the big raptor’s attack is a passing threat, and there is no point in hiding forever. In this instance, after the hawk finished preening, it took off southward without a second look at the Burrowing Owl area. It may be back, but the owl will be ready for it.

This was one of the few occasions where I found myself cheering for the crows as they mobbed the hawk. Maybe the hawk will write off this area of the park as crow territory and won’t come back. The crows don’t seem to mind the Burrowing Owl. There was one crow/owl encounter last year (“Owl Defies Crows,” Jan. 25 2020), but it seemed more exploratory than confrontational, and I haven’t seen any repeats.

All this drama was lost on the First Owl, tucked away under its dense canopy on the rocks out of sight of the path and all its perils. This bird looked like it was meditating, and as can happen during this activity, its eyelids yielded to gravity.

First Owl (Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia)

First Owl (Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia)

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