Scientific Name: Speotyto cunicularia
By maturity, Burrowing Owls are usually eight inches (24 centimeters) in length with a 22 inch wingspan. These owls have short tails and long legs that allow them to run and walk with swiftness and ease. Usually, Burrowing Owls are brown and are spotted with white over their wings, backs, and heads. Their chests are often darker, though they are spotted with white also. Their white undersides show a pattern of brown barring. The eyes are yellow, as are the beaks. The faces of Burrowing Owls are whitish, but are accented with brown circular markings. Juvenile Burrowing Owls usually have buff colored underparts.
Nesting boxes should be located on the ground, or a substrate that would allow burrowing should be provided, in order to allow the Burrowing Owl a more natural habitat. Burrowing Owls should be fed insects. Grasshoppers seem to be a special favorite. Some may also accept small reptiles or mice.
Burrowing Owls lay their eggs in burrows lined with feathers or other soft materials. It is the male's job to thus prepare the burrow. The courtship ritual usually consists of short flight displays, the flashing of white markings, vocalizations, bowing, and nipping. Clutches consist of three to 12 eggs, though about eight would be average. The female Burrowing Owl will remain underground to incubate these eggs for three to four weeks. By the time the owlets are between six and seven weeks old, they will have learned to hunt for themselves.
Normally found in open prairies or grassy plains, the unique habits of the Burrowing Owl set it apart from other raptors. These owls do not use nests, but rather burrow underground. They may dig their own burrows, but more often they will take over abandoned dens dug by other animals like prairie dogs. Usually, the Burrowing Owl lines its home with vegetation or with feathers. It remains in this burrow during the day and also uses it to rear its young. Some live quite close together in a colony situation. During the night, Burrowing Owls hunt, flying into the air and swooping down on prey. Migratory birds, Burrowing Owls usually summer in northern North America, and winter further south. In the northern ranges where they customarily breed, Burrowing Owls are losing the habitats essential to the propagation of their species.
North, Central, and South America
Burrowing Owls are found throughout North, Central, and South America, in different areas depending on the time of year. In many parts of this rather large range, Burrowing Owls are endangered. This is mostly due to the destruction of their habitats. Some have been poisoned by ingesting pesticide - ridden insects.
Although most of its dietary needs are met with insects, Burrowing Owls have also been known to take lizards, mice, and small birds on occasion.