Burrowing Owl Biology

A Reference for North and Central American Owls

Name: Burrowing Owl – Athene cunicularia
Other Common Names:  Florida Burrowing Owl (floridana); Western Burrowing Owl (hypugaea); Billy Owl; Prairie Dog Owl; Prairie Owl; Ground Owl; Howdy Owl.

Subspecies: There are two races of Burrowing Owl in North America. There is one race restricted to Clarion Island, south-west from the tip of Baja California and one race restricted to the Island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The remaining 15 recognized races are all found in South America.
A. c. hypugaea is found from E. Texas north to S. Manitoba and west across S. Canada and all of the Western USA south (including all of Mexico) to El Salvador.
A. c. floridana is restricted to Florida and the Bahamas (marginally S. Georgia).

Measurements and Weights:
Wingspan: 20 – 24 in.
Length: 9 – 11 in.
Tail: 2.8 – 3.4 in.
Average Weight: Male: 5.7 oz.
Average Weight: Female: 5.4 oz.

Description: The Burrowing Owl is a smaller owl that lacks ear tufts. The upper parts are brown with dull white to light buffy-brown spots. The spots are smaller and more numerous on the crown and larger on the back, upper wings and hind neck. It has a short tail with buffy white bands. The legs are distinctly long making it quickly distinguished from the other owls. The under parts are dull white with broad brown barring (all other small owls have streaking below) except the under tail coverts that are white. It has bold white eyebrows extending above and along the sides of the bill. There is a variable amount of white below the bill that may encompass the chin, throat, and entire lower facial disk although usually there is some brown on the chin. The Burrowing Owl’s eyes are lemon yellow and its bill is horn to cream colored.

Young: Juveniles lack the defined spots on the crown showing fine streaks only. The under parts lack barring and are dull white except the upper chest that is dark brown.