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Burrowing Owl


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Owls are unmistakable birds, and that goes double for a long-legged owl that hunts on the ground during the day. Burrowing Owls are small, sandy colored owls with bright-yellow eyes. They live underground in burrows they’ve dug themselves or taken over from a prairie dog, ground squirrel, or tortoise. They live in grasslands, deserts, and other open habitats, where they hunt mainly insects and rodents. Their numbers have declined sharply with human alteration of their habitat and the decline of prairie dogs and ground squirrels.



While Burrowing Owls are capable of producing a variety of cooing, warbling, rasping, clucking, screaming, and rattling sounds, the species is not especially vocal. Most commonly heard is a quail-like two-note cooing made by males during mating and territorial defense. Young owls utter eep calls and rasping sounds, the most intense and prolonged of which may scare away predators by mimicking a rattlesnake's warning.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.

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



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