Tom and I had already spent most of the day walking at Corkscrew Swamp and we were tired. But neither of us had ever seen a burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) and since we were close to Coral Gables, we decided to look. We had been told that the burrows were marked with the white pipes which was a help.
Burrowing owls are classified as a species of special concern by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The burrows, owls and their eggs are protected from harassment and/or disturbance by state law. The owls are also protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Tom and I debated about whether the owls lived in other animals' burrows or dug their own. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the birds generally dig their own burrows in sandy soil.
The owls hunt during the day as well as at dusk and dawn. We arrived at the Coral Gables library about 3:30 and watched as we sat in our van in the parking lot. No owls. We drove around the block and saw other PVC pipes but no owls. So we went back to our parking place at the library. Finally at 6:30, just as the sun was going down we decided to take one last tour of the PVC pipes. This time we were fortunate.
The owl is about the size of Tom's fist.
Tom took 3 photos from the van, then we left the owls to their evening hunt. But we will have this special birding memory forever.