Owl Number Four, first seen on October 21, occupied the same stone on the north shore this afternoon, October 27. That’s a record of longevity for Burrowing Owls in Cesar Chavez Park for this year. The bird seems to be liking it here.
This afternoon, the bird hopped onto a lower stone as I approached, but remained plainly visible. After a few minutes, the owl scrambled back up to the main stone where it has taken up position for the past six days since first being spotted.
Ground squirrels have shown themselves in the immediate neighborhood of the owl’s rock, as everywhere else on the park’s shores. But this bird so far hasn’t shown any interest in squatting in or near a burrow. Burrowing Owls, as the Cornell bird lab website instructs, make nests in a burrow and stick close to it when breeding in the summer. But wintering owls “may roost in tufts of vegetation rather than in burrows.” This is, of course, the wintering season. The owl here is surrounded by clusters of fennel.
While filming the owl today, I observed the bird expelling a pellet from its beak. The bird fluffed up, bent over, lowered its head, partly closed its eyes, opened its beak wide, and coughed out a sizable piece of black solid matter that dropped off the rock in front of the bird. Thereafter the bird returned to its normal position and continued monitoring its surroundings by swiveling its head in an alert manner. From time to time, the bird slowly closed its eyes as if nodding off.
The pellet action is in the video, below, at 1:35.
Owls expel pellets from their beaks because they have no teeth to chew their food, and their stomachs don’t produce enough acids to dissolve bones, fur, bug shells, teeth, feathers and similar hard- to-digest matter. Instead, their gizzard compresses these items into a compact pellet, and the bird periodically coughs them up. Read more about it here. The owl’s production of this pellet is proof that the bird has been eating. That’s a good sign; the fact that the bird is eating makes it more likely that it will stay a while, perhaps for the whole winter season, instead of moving on, as three other owls have done who were seen in the park before this one.