Until quite recently most of us on Marco Island did not know that there are TWO kinds of burrowing owls on Marco Island. Oh, sure they look almost exactly alike, but take my word for it – they’re different.
The adorable little guys you see in their yellow taped confines are the ones who appear more often and seem to be intent on helping their neighbors. Their look-alikes (LA’s) are not so obvious. That’s because they’re very rarely seen publicly, usually only when the entire group has a meeting. (NOTE: quite properly a group of owls is known as a “parliament” of owls).
So, the question is, how can you tell which are the LA’s? There are a few ways. First, the LA’s are usually very negative. If you look closely you can almost always see them shaking their fuzzy little heads from side-to-side, never up and down. Second, although owls love to hoot, LA’s love to tweet (which is only fair considering that owls are birds) although some call it “blogging.” Third, while we are sure LA’s have names they never use a real name when “blogging.” This may not be simple cowardice; perhaps they’re just shyer than the owls we know so well. They are the ones who appear more often and seem to be intent on helping their neighbors. Using a real name may be difficult for a burrower since he/shemight then be identified and differentiated from others in the “parliament”. Fourth, LA’s adore playing follow the leader. Anytime one of them takes charge, the others fall right in line. Fifth, and this requires real probing to discover, the LA’s on a long, tough day retire to their burrows, but they go way beyond the ordinary burrow to stare forlornly at the Great Abyss where they feed morosely on the inky blackness and veil of despair that emerges. Finally, there’s even an unsubstantiated rumor that the LA’s have their own unique version of a communication device fittingly known by anthropomorphists as “The Raptor.”
Having identified certain characteristics of LA’s, what should we make of them and what if anything should we do to help the poor things? I suggest – nothing special. They’re a virtual cult, separated primarily and philosophically from their colleagues. Admittedly they tend to be very noisy, but so are forms of humans and other animals. They can be annoying when in clusters or when incessantly noisily “blogging,” but they are entitled to make noise so long as it does not affect the rights of other burrowers.
In this time of year when we can look happily ahead while counting our own blessings on this magnificent island we should, I contend, share our good will with all the burrowers. They have been created equal. What they choose to do with equality is after all, their business.