Scientific name: Athene Cunicularia
Classification: Raptor or bird of prey
Size: Body length of 8.5 to 11 inches with a wingspan of 20 to 24 inches. They weigh approximately 6 to 8 ounces.
A small owl with a round head and no ear tufts. It has a sandy colored head, back and wings. The breast and belly are white to cream colored with barring. It has a white chin stripe and white eyebrows with yellow eyes and long legs. The females are sometimes darker than the males.
They can live up to 9 years in the wild and 10 years in captivity
Burrowing owls are found in open dry shrub/steppe grasslands, agricultural and range lands, and desert habitats associated with burrowing animals. They are found in a wide variety of elevations ranging from 200 feet below sea level (Death Valley, CA) to 9,000 feet above sea level.
They are found across much of western north America as far east as Texas. Their range extends south through Mexico, central America and south America. A separate subspecies is found in Florida and the Caribbean islands.
Burrowing owls nest in burrows made by other animals such as gophers and badgers. They burrowing owl hovers while hunting and after catching its prey it returns to perch on a fence post or on the ground. They are primarily crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn) but are found hunting throughout a 24 hour period. Many of the northern birds, such as those found in northern Nevada, migrate south for the winter.
They are opportunistic feeders. Their diet consists primarily of large arthropods such as beetles, scorpions and grasshoppers, though small mammals such as mice, gophers and ground squirrels are also important food items. Burrowing owls will also eat reptiles, amphibians, birds and even bats.
Nesting season begins in late March or April. They nest underground using abandoned burrows dug by other animals. Six to nine white eggs (sometimes as many as 12) are laid a day apart. The female incubates the eggs for 28 to 30 days while the male brings food to the female and stands guard. The care of the young is often done by the male once they are hatched. They leave the nest at about 44 days and begin chasing live insects at 49-56 days old.
Protected under the international migratory bird treaty act.
Reason for status:
The treaty was developed by U.S., Canada and Mexico to protect breeding birds across international borders.
Management & conservation:
These owls will use man made burrows. Conservation groups such as the boy scouts of America have put artificial burrows in the ground in disturbed burrowing owl nesting habitat across the state.