Burrowing Owl, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

It wasn’t until we left Badlands National Park that a long held dream became true. We stopped at the west entrance on Sage Creek Road because Joan wanted to take a picture of the National Park sign, and so did I. This entrance is not used by many visitors, there isn’t even a fee station, and traffic on this gravel road is very low.

Suddenly I saw a bird sitting on a post that marks and holds the border fence. We both couldn’t hide our excitement when we saw through the binoculars that this was a Burrowing Owl. We have tried to find this species since a long time in the Badlands and if we wouldn’t have stopped we would have missed it. This small ground-dwelling owl builds their nest in a burrow, either dug by the owl or been abandoned by ground squirrels or other small mammals. In the Badlands they find their housing mostly in the burrows of prairie dogs, who are literally their next door neighbors. It turned out that we finally saw at least five different owls. They often hunt from a perch, like this bison-proof fence post, and glide silently towards their target, which can be arthropods, mice, birds, gophers, ground squirrels, bats, reptiles, or amphibians. Burrowing Owls are most active at dusk and dawn but will hunt any time during day or night. (source: iBird PRO app)

They migrate to Texas for the winter and when we came back two weeks later for another visit at the end of our “OUT WEST” trip, they were all gone.