by Greg Mayer
Update: see below for additional owl photo.
Burrowing owls nest in burrows in grasslands, and, unlike most owls, are active during the day. These two habits combine to make them excellent photographic subjects. James Bond (yes, the Bond, James Bond) wrote of them
When alarmed they have an amusing habit of bobbing up and down, during which performance they gaze intently at the intruder.
Burrowing owls are widely distributed in the western US and unforested parts of South America (e.g., the llanos and pampas). In the eastern US they are limited to Florida, and there are scattered populations in the West Indies. A number of West Indian populations have become extinct, some very recently and likely due to post-Columbian human activity, but others are known only from late Pleistocene fossils. The spotty distribution of the bird in the West Indies is evidently relictual due to post-Pleistocene loss of dry, grassland habitats, which would also leave them more vulnerable to human disturbance (e.g. introduced mongoose).
Reader Ben Goren has sent me the following lovely portrait of a burrowing owl at the Phoenix Zoo.
Bond, J. 1936. Birds of the West Indies. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.
Bond, J. 1950. Check-List of Birds of the West Indies. 3rd ed. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.
Pregill, G.K. and S.L . Olson. 1981. Zoogeography of West Indian vertebrates in relation to Pleistocene climatic cycles. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 12:75-98. pdf