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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Burrowing Owl

Athene cunicularia ORDER: STRIGIFORMES FAMILY: STRIGIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

True to its name, the Burrowing Owl nests in a hole in the ground. Although it is quite willing to dig its own burrow, it often uses one already provided by prairie dogs, skunks, armadillos, or tortoises.

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Appearance

Owls
Owls
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Small owl.
  • No ear tufts.
  • Long legs.
  • Short tail.
  • Spots on back.
  • Bars on front.
  • Found on ground in open country.

Immature Description

Juvenile with unstreaked chest and few spots on back. Chest buff or dirty white, with dark collar

Range Map Help

Burrowing Owl Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Burrowing Owl

    Adult
    • Small, long-legged owl of open pastures and grasslands
    • Mostly found walking on ground, or making short flights to low perches
    • Distinctive facial pattern with brown cap, white eyebrows, and large yellow eyes
    • Mottled brown and white overall
    • © Bob Gunderson, Antioch, California, May 2011
  • Family group

    Burrowing Owl

    Family group
    • Nests colonially in burrows, often using prairie dog dens
    • Very long legs and distinctive, "flattened" head shape
    • Mottled brown and white
    • Large yellow eyes
    • © Ned Harris, Tucson, Arizona, June 2009
  • Adult

    Burrowing Owl

    Adult
    • More terrestrial than any other North American owl
    • Long legs and wings
    • "Flattened" head
    • Large, yellow eyes
    • © Joshua Clark, Broward County, Florida, April 2012

Similar Species

  • Adult

    Short-eared Owl

    Adult
    • Shorter legs and longer wings than Burrowing Owl
    • Obvious facial disc
    • Often seen soaring and fluttering low over fields and marshes
    • Does not walk on ground
    • © Pete Blanchard, Britain, October 2012

Similar Species

No other owl is commonly seen on the ground and during the day. Short-eared Owl is twice the size, has a streaked, often orangish chest, has proportionately shorter legs and much longer wings and tail. The diagnostic short ear tufts often are not visible.

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