Pueo

A Pueo, or Hawaiian short-eared owl, on the Big Island
I was driving home on the old Saddle Road late one afternoon when I saw that the light offered some photo opportunities. The area is one of rolling hills, pastures, and pu’us, which are old cinder cones. As I got my camera out I saw a pair of pueos, Hawaiian short-eared owls, flying toward me at a good clip. I tried and failed to get organized, almost strangling myself on the camera strap.

Luckily, one of the pueos settled in a field, not far from the road. I edged over to the fence and snapped a couple of photos. Then I eased down the fence line, trying not to fall in the hollow mounds of grass that bordered the fence. The pueo kept an eye on me while also scanning the surrounding area, it’s head swiveling around in that disconcerting way that owls have. Eventually, it decided I was too close, or too annoying, and flew off further into the field.

I’ve seen pueos several times in this area; the open pastures are a favorite habitat. Pueos, which are endemic to Hawaii, are active during the day. They usually hunt in the early morning or late afternoon, but they might be seen at any time during the day. Regardless of when I see one, a pueo sighting always leaves me feeling good about my day.

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