Birds of the Prairie, Part 2



In Part 1 of “Birds of the Prairie”, I highlighted the Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus), a wonderful bird of our midwestern prairies and marshes. Today’s Part 2 focuses on an equally impressive bird, the Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus), a new “life bird” for me.

The Short-Eared is no longer a year-round resident of the prairie, although it used to be. Continued loss of land caused the bird to move it’s range northward. But even so, we are happy to welcome these cute little owls back every winter for a wonderful birding experience!

The Short-Eared Owls are a medium-sized owl (about 15″) and are typically seen at dusk, when they begin their foraging over the for food. Their staple is voles, but they have been known to feed on songbirds and even some gamebirds. During the daylight hours, they reside among the tall prairie grasses for cover. But once dusk approaches, they begin their hunt, flying about the prairie and often making their little “barking” sounds, sounding much like a disoriented chihuahua flying about over the prairie!

Here are a few images I made during my 2 trips to some southwest prairies this past winter:


Short-Eared Owl 

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

Typically, the Northern Harriers will stop hunting as dusk settles in, the same time the Short-Eared Owls begin their hunting activities. On one evening, I was quite surprised to watch this Northern Harrier chasing a Short-Eared across the as the sun was beginning to set:

Northern Harrier chasing a Short-Eared Owl

Photographing these interesting little owls was quite a fun “job”. But when one of the shorties would fly against the setting sun, or in the rich, colorful light of sunset, it was even more rewarding:

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

Never heard the “bark” of an owl? Here is a short audio clip of the Short-Eared Owl “barking”. Imagine hearing 10-20 of these owls flying above your head over the open prairie, all at one time!

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
 

Can’t wait for next winter’s adventures with the fabulous Short-Eared Owls!

Jim Braswell

Jim Braswell

Jim is a professional nature photographer, specializing in capturing wildlife behaviors and wildflowers. Much of his local photography is shot from a kayak or on local, native prairies. He is a member of NANPA, the Great Plains Nature Photographers, the Foundation and is a Master Gardener. Jim is a photography and Photoshop teacher in his local high school's career center. Most recently, Jim has begun showcasing his work at Art Festivals around the Midwest. You can see more of Jims work at www.showmenaturephotography.com

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Jim Braswell

Jim Braswell

Jim is a professional nature photographer, specializing in capturing wildlife behaviors and prairie wildflowers. Much of his local photography is shot from a kayak or on local, native prairies. He is a member of NANPA, the Great Plains Nature Photographers, the Missouri Prairie Foundation and is a Master Gardener. Jim is a photography and Photoshop teacher in his local high school's career center. Most recently, Jim has begun showcasing his work at Art Festivals around the Midwest. You can see more of Jims work at www.showmenaturephotography.com

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