Owls in Rain

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

Burrowing Owls love the rain. I used to think of course they would take shelter in the rain. Then I learned better when I went to look for them while the rains came down in the spring of 2019 and found them out and about, as if enjoying the shower. See “Owl Diary March 3010” 3/10/19 and “Owl in Rain,” 1/22/20. So it was this morning. After a night of fairly serious rain, the wet stuff tapered to a cold thin shower with a 15 mph SE wind. With my camera in a plastic bag I went owl chasing and found both of the recent arrivals in their usual places. The first owl — this is sounding like a string quartet — had stepped forward out from under its dense dried brush canopy. It had no shelter from the SE wind, and stood quietly as the gusts blew into its outer feathers. These owls have a dense layer of gray inner feathers that look like effective core insulation. Shooting at 105 yards distance in the brisk breeze, the video came out less than ideal but you can get the picture. Moments later I saw the second owl also in its accustomed spot, standing a bit higher than usual, and letting the rain come down without showing any signs of concern. It seemed alert but calm.

Many birds bathe in water or dust. There is an isolated report in the literature of these owls taking a dust bath, but this doesn’t seem a common practice and I’ve seen nothing of the kind here. These owls like to be near water but they don’t go into water to feed or preen. So a rain shower may serve them as the opportunity to get their feathers rinsed and possibly wash out some of the parasites that plague birds. If their feathers get soaked, the birds will do a vigorous full-body shake and get dry again; see examples in “The Owls Came Back.”

First Owl

Second Owl

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4 thoughts on “Owls in Rain

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  • Martin wrote, “These owls like to be near water ….” Perhaps it’s not the water that they choose to be near but the rip rap (which itself is adjacent to the water for a reason) because of the access to abundant points of refuge in those rock pines from possible attackers.

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