The National Aviary will be closed on Tuesday, September 26th.

The National Aviary will be closed on Tuesday, September 26th.

Burrowing Owl

(Athene cunicularia)

FUN FACT

The generic name for the Burrowing Owl -- Athene -- is an alternate spelling of the "Athena," the Greek goddess of wisdom and courage. Athena's symbol is an owl.

Burrowing owls are a small, long-legged species of owl that spends the majority of its time on the ground.  They are native to open grassland, prairie, and desert habitats and range from southern Canada (where they are considered an endangered species) to the drier habitats of South America.  They have also been found nesting in man-made structures and in close proximity with people on golf courses, campuses, and suburbs.  Burrowing owls differ from most owls in a variety of ways.  They are primarily terrestrial and nest underground while the majority of owls are cavity nesters or use the nest of other birds, such as crows or hawks.  Burrowing owls are fairly social and sometimes form loose colonies in the non-breeding season, while other owls are solitary when not breeding.  Burrowing owls are also fairly active throughout the day (although most hunting takes place at dawn and dusk) while most, but not all, owls are nocturnal predators. 

 

Distribution

Open landscapes through North and South America

Habitat

Grasslands, scrublands, and other dry, open landscapes with low vegetation.

Diet

Like other owls, Burrowing Owls eat small rodents. However, their small size also makes them great predators of large insects and other invertebrates.

Breeding

Burrowing owls nest in abandoned mammal burrows and will occasionally excavate their own burrows if the soil is not too hard. They lay 3-12 eggs which the female incubates for 28 days. Incubation starts as soon as the first egg is laid, and the eggs will hatch in the order in which they were laid. This means that some chicks will be older and larger and typically only 4-5 chicks will survive. Chicks leave the nest and begin hunting at approximately 6 weeks of age.

Status

Not Under Threat (Least Concern)

At the Aviary

See the Burrowing Owls in their mobile exhibit in the Penguin Point vestibule, just outside the Helen Schmidt Theatre.