Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Lynn Chamberlain
Photo Copyright Lynn Chamberlain

The burrowing owl, Athene cunicularia, breeds in southwestern Canada, the western United States, northern Mexico, Florida, and parts of the West Indies. It winters from the southwestern United States to Honduras, northern populations being migratory. In Utah, it is uncommon during summer in proper habitat throughout the state. Its habitats are open grassland and prairies, but it also utilizes other open situations, such as golf courses, cemeteries, and airports. It eats mainly terrestrial invertebrates, but also consumes a variety of small vertebrates, including small mammals, birds, frogs, toads, lizards, and snakes.

The nest is in a mammal burrow, usually that of a prairie dog, ground squirrel, badger, or armadillo; if a mammal burrow is not available the owls will sometimes excavate their own nest burrow. Three to eleven (usually five to nine) eggs are incubated by the female parent, who is fed by the male, for 27 to 30 days. The young are tended by both parents and fledge after about 40 to 45 days.


  • Haug, E. A., B. A. Millsap, and M. S. Martell. 1993. Burrowing owl. Birds of North America 61: 1–18.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Derrickson, K. C., and R. Breitwisch. 1992. Northern mockingbird. Birds of North America 7: 1–25.