Wednesday, October 25, 2017

By J.E. Rogers

When we think about owls, we envision a huge bird sitting in a pine tree at night, a full moon overhead, and a hoot echoing in the darkness. Not too long ago, I was taking my son home when on the side of the road we saw an owl. We were awed by his size and so grateful that we had caught a brief glimpse of him. I guessed that he was a Great Horned Owl because he looked like this:

Photo credit: Ronald Laubenstein – US Fish and Wildlife (public domain)

It was a big bird, and we were stunned as it was the first time either one of us had seen an owl at night in the wild.

The sighting of the owl near my home, and a recent article about the status of the Burrowing Owl prompted me to write this week’s post. We will be talking about an owl that breaks all the norms we associate with owls. So, let’s learn a bit about the Burrowing Owl.

Photo credit: M. Wason/

What makes the Burrowing Owl different from other owls? It does not live in trees, as you might have guessed from their name. The Burrowing Owl lives in nests underground. An intelligent bird, the Burrowing Owl is capable of excavating its own home but prefers to inhabit a burrow made by another mammal, such as the prairie dog, ground squirrel or tortoise.

Photo credit:

Also, unlike its typical tree-dwelling cousin, the Burrowing Owl is quite small. It averages six to ten inches in height. Another distinct difference is its hunting methods. The Burrowing Owl will hunt during the day for insects, running along the ground to catch them. At night, it will track small mammals. It is also known for placing dung near the entrance of its burrow to attract beetles – an easily obtained meal.

Photo credit: Jean Hall/Audubon Photography Awards

There are twenty-two subspecies of Burrowing Owl. Here in the US, we have the Western Burrowing Owl and the Florida Burrowing Owl. There is much concern for these birds as their habitat is being destroyed. We also have to consider how they share their environment with prairie dogs and ground squirrels. People are killing prairie dogs and ground squirrels to control their populations. They are both considered a menace. All of these animals are intrinsically connected within their environment – the loss of one species profoundly effects the others. As a result, these two North American species of Burrowing Owl are considered endangered.

I know you’ll enjoy this video. It’s narrated by a conservation biologist who is dedicated to helping the Burrowing Owl survive.

Photo credit: M. Wason/

If you would like to read more about this wonderful little owl, click on any of the following links.

Thanks for stopping by to read about the Burrowing Owl. I do hope you’ll visit again.


Jeanne E. Rogers, Award Winning Author
The Sword of Demelza, The Gift of Sunderland,
One Hot Mess, A Child’s Environmental Fable, and
Kohana, A Native American Creation Myth
Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!

To learn more about me, visit my ‘author page’ on Amazon: