Burrowing Owl

Posted by admin - May 11, 2006 - Birds - No Comments

Adult burrowing owls protect their burrows through a series of head bobs and short barks to intimidate predators. Juveniles are known to make a rattlesnake-like buzz to warn predators away from the entrance to their burrows. © Bruce Gill

Adult burrowing owls protect their burrows through a series of head bobs and short barks to intimidate predators. Juveniles are known to make a rattlesnake-like buzz to warn predators away from the entrance to their burrows. Photo © Bruce Gill

A Prairie Native In Decline
Loss and degradation of habitat due to the decline of prairie dog species (responsible for creating the burrows used by burrowing owls), urban sprawl, conversion of prairie to intensive agriculture, and accidental poisoning (through pesticide programs aimed at prairie dogs and other burrowing mammals and insects) have taken a tremendous toll on burrowing owl populations across the western United States.

Natural History
Burrowing owls are uniquely adapted to the shortgrass prairies of North, Central and South America. Burrowing owls are tolerant of human activity and have been known to make their homes in cow pastures, fields surrounding airports, ranch and farm land, or in close proximity to highways. This tiny owl is about the size of a robin and covered in brown-spotted feathers to camouflage into the dry grasses. Its long, stilt-like legs help it to see over the prairie grasses and chase down its insect prey. The burrowing owl requires the deep soils of the short grass prairie and burrowing mammals that live there to excavate their tunnels. Unlike most owls, they remain active during the day, and eat rodents, insects, fruits, and seeds. The burrowing owl is second only to the barn owl in economic importance for the multitude of insects and rodents that it eats around agricultural lands, and is also a food source for other raptors, foxes and coyotes.

Conservation Status
-Candidate Species, Endangered Species Act
-Colorado Division of Wildlife Threatened Species
-Forest Service Sensitive Species
-Utah Species of Concern
-New Mexico Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Action Taken
Rocky Mountain Wild is working with partner organizations and the Bureau of Land Management in western Colorado to protect important burrowing owl habitat near Grand Junction. Protection of the owl’s declining prairie home is critical to ensuring a future for this rare species.  Additionally, our work to protect the four prairie dog species of the Western U.S. is also done on behalf of the many species, including burrowing owls, that rely on prairie dog colonies for food and/or shelter.

LISTEN to the Burrowing Owl’s call

Read More
US Fish & Wildlife Service Status Assessment of Burrowing Owl