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Burrowing Owl Photos

Photography by Terry Sohl

My Favorite: Burrowing Owls are relatively easy to find during the summer months in South Dakota. If you find a prairie dog town in the central or western part of the state, you have a good chance of also finding Burrowing Owls. I've made many treks west to the wonderful grasslands in central and western South Dakota, but my favorite Burrowing Owl photo is the one that came as the biggest surprise.

In August 2008 I was returning home from a work trip, flying into Sioux Falls. I was making the 8 mile drive back to our home in Brandon, taking a paved road that didn't get a huge amount of traffic, when I saw a bird on a fence post up in the distance. As I passed, I had to do a double-take...Burrowing Owl!! I slowly reversed to confirm, and yes! A Burrowing Owl, just a few miles from our home!

Burrowing Owls used to be more broadly spread in the Great Plains, but with the plowing of land for cropland, such as the majority of land in eastern South Dakota, their habitat had been removed. There's thus a relatively sharp cutoff in sightings down the middle of the state, with few sightings in eastern South Dakota. No breeding had been confirmed within ~150 miles of where this bird was found. And as I soon learned, it wasn't just one, it was a breeding pair with young! There was an old badger hole in an alfalfa field that they seemed to be using as their home base. There were at least 3 young and the two adults, and I had a wonderful time that August and September watching the little family, before they drifted off one by one and headed south for the winter.

My favorite photo here may be the ONLY bird I have photos from on my entire website, taken at night. I had a blast that night, watching them feed on grasshoppers and other insect critters near the road.

Burrowing Owl - Athene cunicularia 

Burrowing Owl 1 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 2 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 3 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 4 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 1

July 18th, 2004

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 2

July 17th 2004

Near Pierre, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 3

July 18th, 2004

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 4

July 18th, 2004

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 5 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 6 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 7 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 8 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 5

July 4th, 2005

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 6

July 27th, 2009

Antelope Island near Great Salt Lake, Utah

Burrowing Owl 7

July 4th, 2007

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 8

July 4th, 2007

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 9 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 10 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 11 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 12 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 9

July 4th, 2007

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 10

July 29th, 2007

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 11

July 4th, 2007

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 12

July 29th, 2007

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 13 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 14 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 15 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 16 - Athene cunicularia

Burrowing Owl 13

August 22nd, 2008

Near Brandon, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 14

August 22nd, 2008

Near Brandon, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 15

September 2008

Near Brandon, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 16

September 2008

Near Brandon, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 27 - Athene cunicularia Burrowing Owl 18 - Athene cunicularia Burrowing Owl 19 - Athene cunicularia Burrowing Owl 20 - Athene cunicularia 

Burrowing Owl 17

July 27th, 2015

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Burrowing Owl 18

July 27th, 2015

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

 

Burrowing Owl 19

July 27th, 2015

Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

 

Burrowing Owl 20

July 3rd, 2017

Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota

Click here for the species description page for the Burrowing Owl

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Please mail any comments/suggestions/additional links for this page to: Terry L. Sohl