Burrowing owl

COMMON NAME: Burrowing owl

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Athene cuniculari

IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS:
A small owl, about eight inches tall with long bare legs, no ear (feather) tufts, and a small facial disc. The adults are dusty brown with white markings on the belly and a prominent white chin stripe. The young are brown on the head, back, and wings, with a white belly and chest. They molt into an adult-like plumage during their first summer.

RANGE:
Breeds west of the Mississippi River from southern Canada throughout the western United States south through Mexico and into South America. A separate subspecies is found in Florida and the Caribbean Islands. Birds from the northern part of the United States and Canada are migratory, although their winter home is unknown.

HABITAT:
An owl of dry, short-grass prairie, burrowing owls are associated with burrowing mammals, particularly prairie dogs, ground squirrels, and badgers.

NESTING:
Burrowing owls nest underground in abandoned burrows dug by mammals or, if soil conditions allow, they will dig their own. They also use human-made nest boxes placed underground. They can have up to 11 young, although three to six seems to be more common.

FEEDING HABITS:
Burrowing owls feed on a wide variety of prey, changing food habits as location and time of year determine availability. Insects, small rodents, lizards, and birds are the most common prey items.

RAPTOR CENTER DATA:
Burrowing owls are rarely seen in the clinic.

CONSERVATION NOTES:
An endangered species in Minnesota, the burrowing owl is rarely seen in this state due to the loss of pasture and short mixed-grass prairie habits.  In other parts of the country, its numbers seem to also be declining