• Barn Owl
    Barn
  • Barred Owl
    Barred
  • Boreal Owl
    Boreal
  • Burrowing Owl
    Burrowing
  • Eastern Screech Owl
    Eastern Screech
  • Elf Owl
    Elf
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
    Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
    Flammulated
  • Great Grey Owl
    Great Grey
  • Great Horned Owl
    Great Horned
  • Long Eared Owl
    Long-Eared
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Northern Hawk
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
    Northern Pygmy
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
    Northern Saw-whet
  • Short-eared Owl
    Short-Eared
  • Snowy Owl
    Snowy
  • Spotted Owl
    Spotted
  • Western Screech Owl
    Western Screech
  • Western Screech Owl
    Whiskered Screech Owl

BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)

Burrowing OwlA 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?

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

  • 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

  • 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)
  • Range: ranges from southern Canada all the way through South America; also found on Caribbean Islands

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

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

  • 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
  • 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 n or around burrow

Burrowing Owl Range Map

Burrowing Owl Range Map

Burrowing Owl Audio

Burrowing Owl Facts

Other Names: Ground Owl, Prairie Dog Owl, Gopher Owl, Cuckoo Owl
Family: Strigidae
Closest Relative: Little 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.