• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
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.

Love Owls?Sponsored Ad
Drink Birds & Beans coffee. Save our birds.

At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
7.5–9.8 in
19–25 cm
Wingspan
21.7 in
55 cm
Weight
5.3 oz
150 g
Other Names
  • Chevêche des terriers (French)
  • Lechuza llanera, Chicuate (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Unlike most owls in which the female is larger than the male, the sexes of the Burrowing Owl are the same size.
  • The Burrowing Owl appears to be diurnal because it can often be seen foraging during the day. In fact, it hunts all day and night long and is most active in the morning and evening. It catches more insects during the day and more mammals at night.
  • The Burrowing Owl sometimes is placed into its own genus (Speotyto). Genetic similarity and overall appearance unite it with the other members of Athene. These are the Little Owl of Eurasia and northern Africa, the Spotted Owlet of southeastern Asia, and the extremely rare Forest Owlet, known only from a handful of specimens and sightings in India. Although the Little Owl is found in deserts and open areas, it is not nearly as terrestrial as the Burrowing Owl. It usually nests in tree cavities, although it will use a hole in a building or wall, and sometimes nests in rabbit holes.
  • The Burrowing Owl collects mammal dung and puts it in and around its burrow. The dung attracts dung beetles, which the owl then captures and eats.

Habitat


Grassland

Lives in dry, open areas with no trees and short grass. Found on golf courses, cemeteries, airports, vacant lots, university campuses, pastures, and prairie dog towns.

Food


Insects

Insects, scorpions, small mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–12 eggs
Egg Description
White.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless, eyes closed, covered in grayish white down.
Nest Description

Nests in burrow, often dug by a mammal. Burrow can be several meters long, with numerous twists and turns. Often lined with horse or cow manure.

Nest Placement

Burrow

Behavior


Aerial Dive

Catches food with feet. Hunts by walking, hopping, or running along the ground, or by flying from perch.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Populations declining in many areas; listed as endangered or threatened in some states and provinces. Collision with cars is a major source of mortality. Human activities have increased the species' range in Florida.

Credits

    1. Haug, E. A., B. A. Millsap, and M. S. Martell. 1993. Burrowing Owl (Speotyto cunicularia). In The Birds of North America, No. 61 (A. Poole, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
    2. Levy, D. J., R. S. Duncan, and C. F. Levins. 2004. Use of dung as a tool by burrowing owls. Nature 431: 39.

    Range Map Help

    Burrowing Owl Range Map
    View dynamic map of eBird sightings

    You Might Also Like

    Burrowing Owls of the Salton Sea: story and photos in Living Bird magazine