Burrowing OwlAthene cunicularia

adult, Western
Brian E. Small/VIREO
Paul Bannick/VIREO
Laura C. Williams/VIREO
adult, Florida
Johann Schumacher/VIREO
adult, Western
Martin Meyers/VIREO
adult, Western
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult, Western
Brian E. Small/VIREO
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl



9" (23 cm). A robin-sized terrestrial owl, short-tailed and long-legged. Yellow eyes; no ear tufts; face framed in white, with blackish collar.


Liquid cackling; also a mellow coo-coooo, repeated twice.


chatter call (alarm) #2
chatter call (alarm) #1
coo-coooo calls
coo-coooo calls (two males)


Plains, deserts, fields, and airports.


Breeds from Canada's southern prairie provinces south throughout western United States to southern California and Texas. Winters in southwestern states. Resident in central and southern Florida. Also in tropical America.


This comical little bird is one of the most diurnal of all owls. It often perches near its hole; when approached too closely, it will bob up and down and finally dive into its burrow rather than take flight. It usually claims burrows that have been abandoned by prairie dogs or pocket gophers but is quite capable of digging its own.


7-10 white eggs in a long underground burrow lined with grasses, roots, and dung.

Similar Species

adult, Pacific

Northern Pygmy-Owl

7-7 1/2" (18-19 cm). A sparrow-sized owl. Small round head and long, finely barred tail that is often cocked at an angle.


Elf Owl

5 1/2" (14 cm). A tiny owl with a short tail, no ear tufts, yellow eyes; buff with indistinct dark streaks.


Northern Saw-whet Owl

7" (18 cm). A very small, earless, yellow-eyed owl; brown above, with white streaks on forehead, dark bill, and short tail.


Northern Hawk Owl

15-17" (38-43 cm). W. 33" (84 cm). Smaller than a crow. A long-tailed, day-flying owl that behaves more like a hawk. Barred breast; facial disks have bold black borders.


Boreal Owl

9-12" (23-30 cm). W. 24" (61 cm). A rare, robin-sized owl without ear tufts. Brown with white spots above, rust-streaked below.


Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

6 1/2-7" (17-18 cm). Resembles Northern Pygmy-Owl, but more rust-colored, with rusty, faintly cross-barred tail and streaked flanks. Crown streaked with white, underparts streaked with red-brown.


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