Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Up close with owls on Antelope Island

Jun 20, 2024 07:33AM ● By Braden Nelsen
The small burrowing owl is just one of the amazing species that calls Antelope Island home. Photo shared with permission from Brian Ferguson

The small burrowing owl is just one of the amazing species that calls Antelope Island home. Photo shared with permission from Brian Ferguson

ANTELOPE ISLAND—It’s a little-known fact that owls when they fly, are almost silent. The familiar sound of flapping wings associated with many birds is absent, and while that helps them be incredibly effective hunters, it does make them difficult to find, especially at night. The Owl Prowl on Antelope Island, however, is making owl spotting a little easier and making these amazing creatures more accessible in the wild. 

Trish Ackley, Park Naturalist at Antelope Island, has hosted this event for several years and says that it’s a great opportunity to explore the impressive biodiversity of the island. “We’re known for our bison,” said Ackley, explaining how they and the pronghorn are about as common as squirrels. As interesting as those creatures are, however, “People are looking past really cool stuff to see the bison,” she said.

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see bison, there’s more to the island that people are missing, which is what makes events like the Owl Prowl so important. The owls that call Antelope Island home make up a vital part of the local ecosystem, curbing rodent and insect populations, which, as anyone who has visited Antelope Island in the warm months knows, is a valuable contribution.

There are several species that visitors can hope to encounter as part of the Owl Prowl, but most likely will be the burrowing owl. This smaller species, as the name implies, doesn’t build its nests in trees, but rather beneath the soil. These owls differ from their larger cousins in another significant way too: as opposed to many owls who hunt at night, burrowing owls are diurnal, which means they’re alert, awake and active during the daylight hours.

This makes the timing of Owl Prowl just about perfect: starting at 9 a.m. means that guests will be able to see burrowing owls when they’re most active, out and about and hunting for prey. It also means that they have a better chance of spotting other species like the great horned owl, barn owl, or screech owls that frequent the island, as they have a strong chance of being in their nests, resting up for their night hunts. 

For newcomers to the event, Ackley recommends bringing along a few essentials, including bug spray, an ultra-fine mesh head net, binoculars (although there will be some provided), sunscreen, and at least a quarter tank of gas as the event requires a bit of driving around the park. Owl Prowl will start at 9 a.m. in the visitor center parking lot on Antelope Island on June 29, and is a family-friendly event, with leashed dogs welcome.