What You Can See on April 10
Submitted by Ted Williams on Mon, 04/10/2006 - 07:22.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Winged Goblins Burrowing owls perform all sorts of functions useful to humans, none more so than demonstrating to infertile minds that goblins really do exist. On prairies, grasslands, and open areas in southwest Canada, the western states, Florida (which sustains an isolated and rapidly dwindling population), and from Mexico to southern Argentina, these small, scowling, long-legged owls can be seen at any time of day standing beside burrows abandoned by ground-dwellers, sometimes bobbing their heads and cackling demonically. During spring courtship a pair will stand atop their appropriated burrow, stretch their legs and wings, preen, and nibble each other, and alternately hover 20 feet in the air, appearing utterly un-birdlike—otherworldly, in fact. Perhaps to conceal their odor from predators, burrowing owls frequently line their subterranean nests with cow chips. Come too close, and they’ll emit a superb imitation of an angry prairie rattlesnake.