Short-eared Owl is much larger than Burrowing Owl and has much shorter legs relative to its body size. Other small owls that lack ear tufts, such as Northern Saw-whet Owl, tend to occur in forests and are unlikely to be seen on the ground in open areas. Northern Pygmy-Owl is active during the day, but tends to perch in trees rather than on the ground. It has short legs and a much longer tail than Burrowing Owl.
Burrowing Owls have a very wide range that extends to the tip of South America and includes many subspecies, but there are few clear differences in plumage. The subspecies that occurs in Florida and the Caribbean tends to be slightly smaller, with whiter spots, than Burrowing Owls of the West.
Find This Bird
Look for Burrowing Owls on wide expanses of short vegetation, especially around prairie dog towns and ground squirrel colonies. You may also find them using culverts and ditches. They are very well camouflaged and amazingly small compared to the wide-open areas where they live, so a spotting scope will be useful for viewing them. You’ll need to patiently scan a likely habitat—pay special attention to dirt mounds around burrow entrances, where owls often stand when they’re not hunting, sometimes with just their head and eyes showing. Your chances are best in early morning and late evening, when the owls tend to be more active.