BURROWING OWL

Athene cunicularia

TOP 5 ID TIPS: BURROWING OWLS

  • Usually spotted on the ground

  • Distinctive white eyebrow and round head

  • Medium in size

  • Long legs

  • Blends into grassy, sandy habitats

 © Ly Dang / nature2pixels.com

BURROWING OWL FACTS:

A small, long-legged owl with bright yellow eyes and broad, white eyebrow

Males: head, back, and chest are brown with white spotting, belly white with dark barring

Females: similar to male, but with heavier barring and spotting

Young: less barring; brown chest, buff colored belly

OTHER NAMES:

 

Ground Owl, Prairie Dog Owl, Gopher Owl, Cuckoo Owl 


FAMILY:

 

Strigidae


CLOSEST RELATIVE:

 

Little Owl

BURROWING OWL SIZE:

Height: Males 19-25 cm (7.5-9.8 in), Females 19-25 cm (7.5-9.8 in)

Weight: Males 150g (5.29 oz), Females 150g (5.29 oz)

Wingspan Both: 50-60 cm (19.6-23.6 in)

BURROWING OWL RANGE:

Ranges from southern Canada all the way through South America; also found on Caribbean Islands

 

BURROWING OWL HABITAT:

 

Dry, open areas: grasslands, savannas, deserts, farmland; even golf courses, cemeteries, vacant lots, and other flat, open grounds within towns and cities

BURROWING OWL DIET:

Arthropods like beetles, crickets, and scorpions; small mammals such as voles; sometimes reptiles and amphibians

BURROWING OWL VOICE:

When disturbed in the nest, will imitate the sound of a rattle snake to scare off  predators

Males: a soft coo coooo or a multi-noted warbled batch of coos; also a series of high-pitched, raspy  “chack” or “cheh” notes

Females: a series of down-slurred notes or a warble

BURROWING OWL NESTING:

Nest Site: in burrow in flat or slightly elevated areas; burrows are usually made by mammals like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, badgers, etc,
and are “renovated” by the owl

Eggs: 6-11 eggs

Incubation: 28-30 days

BURROWING OWL HUNTING HABITS:

Usually crepuscular, but can be found hunting anytime of day or night; walks, hops, or runs on the ground after prey; also hunts from perch; sometimes caches prey in or around burrow

BURROWING OWL CONSERVATION STATUS: 

Not globally threatened, but listed as Endangered in some U.S. states and parts of Canada, a Species of Special Concern in parts of U.S., and Threatened in parts of Canada.

© Danny Hancock

© Danny Hancock

BURROWING OWL DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH AMERICA

Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Burrowing Owl - Denver Holt
00:00 / 00:00

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 

A bird living under ground? This must be a joke!

 

But it’s true; the Burrowing Owl of North America’s flatlands really does spend time underground! This owl nests in the burrows made by prairie dogs, badgers, skunks, and other small mammals. But don’t come a knockin’ on its door; when disturbed in its burrow, the Burrowing Owl lets out an alarm call sounding very much like the shake of a rattlesnake’s rattle; that’s sure to scare off any would be predators!

Though quite at home beneath the earth’s surface, the Burrowing Owl doesn’t stay underground all the time. It spends time above ground hunting for tasty prey like insects and rodents. Though the Burrowing Owl can fly, it prefers to hunt on foot, pursuing its prey by walking, hoppi ng, or running after it. Wouldn’t that be a site to see?

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PHOTO CREDIT

 

We are so grateful to the photographers who capture owls, and our work, in the most amazing ways. They generously share their work with us, and you. Check out the works of some of the photographers whose work is featured on our site! They are incredible talented artists who are committed to wildlife conservation.

Thank you to:

Kurt Lindsay: https://kurtlindsay.smugmug.com/Nebulosa/i-7D8Wh9d

Daniel J Cox: http://naturalexposures.com

Radd Icenoggle: https://www.flickr.com/photos/radley521

Melissa Groo: https://www.melissagroo.com

Ly Dang: https://www.nature2pixels.com

Tom Murphy: https://www.tmurphywild.com/

Deborah Hanson

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