Burrowing Owl

(Athene cunicularia)




Facts about this animal

The burrowing owl is a small owl, about 23 cm tall, with very long legs and a short tail. The plumage of the body is greyish-brown and spotted with white. The round head has a white stripe above the eyes, and the throat is white. Burrowing owls' eyes are bright yellow.
The female lays 7 to 9 eggs, and she and the male take turns sitting on them. Three to four weeks later, the eggs hatch and fluffy chicks emerge. The parent owls stay deliver live prey to the young to teach them to hunt and kill. The young leave the parent owls at the end of the summer. By then they have grown their adult feathers and can hunt alone.
Burrowing owls nest underground. They usually do not dig their own burrows but use abandoned mammal burrows which they sometimes enlarge.
Burrowing owls eat lots of insects, as well as ground squirrels, voles, mice, small birds, lizards and dead animals. They capture prey in many ways including: diving from the air, gliding from a perch, and jumping on top of their prey from the ground.

Did you know?
that the male burrowing owl stands guard outside his burrow for weeks, protecting his young? As a consequence, the sun bleaches his head feathers to a lighter colour, and, by late summer, you can tell which owl is the male of a pair by his light-coloured head.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Athene cunicularia
Name (English) Burrowing Owl
Name (French) ChevĂȘche des terriers
Name (German) Kanincheneule
Name (Spanish) Lechuza de las vizcacheras
Local names Brasil: Coruja-buraqueira
Venezuela: Mochuelo de hoyo
CITES Status Appendix II



Photo Copyright by
Alan D. Wilson



Range North and South America
Habitat Open, dry grasslands, agricultural and range lands, and desert habitats
Wild population Unknown, but populations are declining
Zoo population 219 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

How this animal should be transported

Owls travel best in completely dark boxes. Boxes should be slightly longer than the head to tail length of the bird intended to travel, and wide and high enough for the bird to be able to stand or lie down in comfort without banging its shoulders or head. A well made wooden box with no perches is required, with carpet or some other non slip surface fixed on the floor and a padded ceiling, with air-holes on either side. The easiest type of door to use is an upward sliding door at one end. The door can then be slid up a small amount; the bird visualised before being grasped by the legs, carefully, through the small opening before sliding the door fully open for removal. A handle fixed to the top of the box makes carrying easier.

For air transport, Container Note 20 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex

Why do zoos keep this animal

The reason for keeping burrowing owls in zoos is primarily educational as they are the only owl species to live underground. Burrowing owls can also be associated with prairie dogs or vizcachas for multispecies exhibits displaying grasslands.