Burrowing Owl
Athene cunicularia

burrowing owl

The Burrowing Owl is a small prairie owl, which nests underground. They make use of burrows abandoned by badgers, Richardson’s ground squirrels (gophers), or prairie dogs. They are most often seen on the ground or short perches such as fence posts.

They prefer open terrain, with short vegetation near their burrow, and taller vegetation somewhat further away. This allows them to watch for predators from the ground near their nest, and also hunt for food in the taller vegetation. They choose sites close to sloughs or dugouts to provide a source of water. They spend most of their time within 600m of their burrow.

Burrowing Owls eat mainly rodents and insects. A family of owls can eat 1,800 rodents and 7,000 grasshoppers over a single summer!

They are considered “generalists” and will nest in native and tame pastures, or even in cropland or roadside ditches. Soil type and average spring temperatures seem to be more important in choosing a nesting site than land cover type.

They prefer that the grass is relatively short (less than 10 cm), and that numerous burrows are available in one area. Juvenile owls will use burrows close to their nest until they migrate south in September. Adults return to Saskatchewan in mid-April to early-May.

The burrowing owl was listed as “endangered” under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003.