Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
Description: The burrowing owl is a ground-dwelling species. Identifying characteristics include long legs, a brown body with speckles of white, and the absence of ear tufts.
Size: Both males and females stand about 10 inches tall and weigh 6 ounces. Wingspan is 20 to 24 inches.
Diet: Burrowing owls eat insects, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and other birds depending on the season and food availability. They are most active at dawn and dusk, but some hunt during the day and night. Insects are caught more often during the day, and more mammals are consumed at night.
Typical Lifespan: Average lifespan is 6 to 8 years.
Habitat: Burrowing owls live in burrows dug by other animals in open, treeless spaces, and in the U.S. they are most abundant in burrows of the various species of prairie dogs.
Range: Summer breeding populations can be found from the Midwest to the eastern parts of the Pacific states and into Canada. Winter populations are found in Central America and Mexico. Year round, burrowing owls can be seen in Florida, Mexico, and parts of South America, excluding the Amazon rainforest.
Life History and Reproduction: The burrowing owl may dig its own nest or utilize the abandoned burrows of prairie dogs, armadillos, skunks, or pocket gophers. Both parents take care of their young until they are ready to leave the nest after about 40 days. The owlets are able to scare away predators by hiding in the burrow and mimicking the sounds of a rattlesnake.
Burrowing owls collect mammal waste that they put around their nests to attract dung beetles, one of their favorite foods.
Conservation status: Populations are declining in some areas due to pesticide use, poisoning of prairie dog colonies, and automobile collisions. Conservation concern differs by region, ranging from listings of Endangered to Threatened to Species of Concerns in certain states. They also are of conservation concern in Canada and Mexico.