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Merlin Bird ID

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    Burrowing Owl

    ID Info
    Silhouette OwlsOwls

    Burrowing Owl

    Athene cunicularia
    • ORDER: Strigiformes
    • FAMILY: Strigidae
    Basic Description

    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.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Burrowing OwlRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    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.

    Other Names
    • Tecolote Llanero (Spanish)
    • Chevêche des terriers (French)
    • Cool Facts