California Raptor Center

Burrowing Owl

Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
(Athene refers to goddess of wisdom, cunicularia is Latin for ‘miner or burrower)

Size: Length: 8-11in  Wingspan: 20-24in

Weight: Female: 129-185g (~0.28-0.5lb) Male: 120-228g (~0.26-0.4lb)

Lifespan: Burrowing Owls in the wild live to about 8 years. In captivity can live up to 12 years maybe more.

ID: This small owl has very long bare legs.  It has yellow eyes, brown and black spotted coloration, no horns and a white ruff at its neck.  Juveniles have an unstreaked chest and few spots on back. The chest is buff or dirty white, with dark collar.

Hunting: These owls require only a mound of dirt or fence post to serve as a perch to hunt from. 

Prey: The diet of Burrowing Owls tends to change seasonally, but its preferred prey species are insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles, and small mammals, including mice and moles, in the spring and summer.

Breeding: The breeding season begins in March. Clutch size is usually 6-9 eggs, each laid one day apart and incubated by the female for approximately 28 days. The young birds first appear above ground at about 2 weeks old. They fledge and are hunting on their own within 45 days of hatching.

Range: Burrowing Owls may be found in open grasslands from Southwestern Canada to Central and South America. The birds of this species found in the Northern U.S. and Canada migrate south to warmer climates during the winter.

Status: This species is not listed on the Federal Endangered Species Act; however, it is considered a candidate species and is listed as a species of special concern in many states. The primary reason for the disappearance of the Burrowing Owl is human agriculture and development that compete for the same flat, open habitat required by this species.

Point of Interest: The Burrowing Owl is quite unique among owl species.  It is a diurnal and nocturnal owl that lives and nests in burrows and is often found living in groups, known as colonies.  Other animals such as ground squirrels and prairie dogs generally build the burrows inhabited by this species.