Bad owl hunting

Reader Michelle B. sends this short video of a boreal owl (Aegolius funereus) attempting to hunt under the snow in Minnesota.  (The action begins about 45 sec in.) It fails: the snow is too hard and the prey too deep.  The owl looks ticked off—but then owls always look ticked off!

The notes to the video, made by Christopher Wood, explain:

One of 7 different Boreal owls that we saw this day. I took this out of the van window while leading my WINGS MN in Winter tour. It was shot with a Canon Mark IV, 500mm + 1.4x, so it’s not particularly stable. It was -20F when this was shot so some of the images are soft from the heat waves created by the relatively warm 30F air coming from the van. It is very unusual for Boreal Owls to hunt during the day.

Notice how it swivels its head about 180 degrees. Some owls can even do 270° or more, and we’ll learn later how they do that.


Cute, no?


  1. Pete Moulton
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Seven Boreals? WOW! I’ve never even seen one. Cool video, Michelle!

    • Posted February 13, 2013 at 5:54 am | Permalink

      Thanks! Really amazing vid, found it on G+ of course. 🙂

  2. Hempenstein
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Cute, no?

    Yes! Way mo bettah than than the alternative!

  3. Dominic
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Guessing the snow depth meant it was very hungry hence daytime hunting…?

  4. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I shouldn’t laugh at Holy Athena’s totem animal, but the way that s/he’s floundering around with the wings outspread, apparently flailing in free air with h(-is/-er) feet at something out of sight … rather reminds me of myself last Sunday, chest-deep in the snow, supported by my arms, and trying to get out of a hole through the snow crust without using my feet. Yes, I could “touch bottom” with my feet, but could then feel the stream of melt-water under the snow running over my boots, looking for a way in.
    My rather lighter wife, meanwhile, was rolling around on the bank of this snow-filled gully, helpless with mirth at the sight of me crawling away on all fours to avoid another dunking.
    Mr(s) Wol was probably out of the photographer’s sight line, hanging upside down from their perch and howling with owlish laughter. Which would explain the pained embarrassment in the look on h(-is/-er) beak.
    Can I haz neuter pronoun for owls, plz?

  5. George
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    NPR’s Science Friday did a story on how owls rotate their heads last Friday:

  6. marksolock
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

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