A Burrowing Owl from British Columbia!
The curious faces in the top photo are nestling Burrowing Owls, just banded and placed back in their artificial nest burrow in British Columbia, July 9, 2013....
In late December 2013 a private landowner west of Roseburg called Mark Hamm about an owl. Mark visited and saw that it was a Burrowing Owl. The landowner said the bird was present since mid-December 2013. The bird had a band number which Mark painstakingly read and this allowed the Bird Banding Lab to put Mark and I in touch with the original bander, as well as over a dozen other Burrowing Owl researchers interested in this owl. Here is a summary:
The owl and its siblings were hatched June 12, 2013, and banded as nestlings July 9, 2013, at Quilchena Ranch, east of Nicola Lake, s. British Columbia, Canada. Our bird was one of 4 in the nest and weighed 162 grams. The tarsus was too short and fat for the green/black band that they usually put on the right leg of Burrowing Owls in B.C., so that is why it is absent and only the aluminum band was on the owl. The majority of juveniles have a more elongated tarsus at that age. This bird was part of a reintroduction program in B.C. (please check out www.burrowingowlbc.org). The parents of this bird were introduced there, nested in an artificial burrow, and this bird was wild-born to the introduced parents.
It is about 500 miles straight-line from its origin to here in Douglas County, Oregon. The researchers, as well as we, wonder what route the bird used to get down here. This winter the B.C. Burrowing Owl folks have also had reports of two of the Nicola Valley owls on Vancouver Island, B.C.: one at Tofino (Pacific Ocean side) and one at Comox (Strait of Georgia side).
In January, we collected about a dozen pellets from the day roost of the owl. Elva Paulson and I, and later my kids, went through about a dozen pellets. The most common pieces in the pellets were of several types of black ground beetle. Also present were the pincers of earwigs. One pellet had many bones of a small bird, possibly a sparrow. One pellet had bones of a very small (very young) vole. Much of the pellets were just "soft stuff" that Elva thought might be the contents of nightcrawler guts.
The owl was last seen at its winter home west of Roseburg in mid-February. We hope it safely makes it to its breeding grounds.
Photos of the owl and pellets can be seen here.