Really Cool Burrowing Owl Facts That Will Amaze You!

The Burrowing Owl is a small, secretive bird that lives in burrows. It is the only species of owl to live in underground burrows. There are many facts about this unusual animal which I have compiled for you below.

Burrowing Owl Facts

  • The life span of the burrowing owls depends on what is in the area where they live. In the United States and Canada, the population of this species is relatively small.
  • Burrowing Owls have keen hearing and excellent night vision that helps them find prey such as mice, voles, rabbits and other rodents. The use their claws to catch prey in flight and tear it apart with their beak.
  • They have the most feathers of any North American owl, typically 16-25,000 per individual!
  • It’s their ability to turn their heads 180 degrees that allows them to see all around them without moving their body much at all.
  • They have white facial disks which act as ear muffs so they can detect sounds while they’re sleeping without waking up.
  • It was formerly classified as a species by itself but it has now been lumped into the Tyto genus with other types of owls like Barn Owls.
  • The burrowing owl is a small, long-legged owl commonly found throughout dry regions of South and North America.
  • Burrowing owls are most commonly found in open fields, rangeland, grasslands, desert, or an area with low tree cover. They nest and feed in burrows, usually located near burrows excavated by prairie dogs.
  • Burrowing owls are not only found in the desert; they also frequent the woods. They use burrows to hide from other birds, such as eagles and hawks, as well as prey animals such as raccoons and foxes.
  • If you’re observing one of these owls, you may notice it stop and rest at night, usually while watching for a potential threat.
  • These nocturnal animals have specially adapted eyes that allow them to see clearly during the nighttime. The eye structure and large size enables them to collect more light than a human or other similar sized animal would be able to do so.
  • When burrowing owls roost, they usually move through underground burrows. They usually bury themselves to an approximate depth of twelve inches, although their average depth is unknown.
  • The inside of the burrow will be lined with fine hair. This serves as a defense against intruders who might attack while the owl sleeps or is out foraging.
  • Burrowing owls tend to be nocturnal, although this habit can become irregular. Most times, a bird will stay active during the day and become inactive during the night hours.
  • A burrow made from rock or debris is called a den. This den can vary in size and shape depending on the specific bird. Some are quite elaborate, while others are quite small and simple.
  • Most burrow dens are constructed around tree branches, but they can also be located under burrows, in the ground, along fences or walls, in trees, and even on roofs.
  • They live in burrows dug by other animals, usually prairie dogs. The tunnels provide protection from bad weather and help them keep an eye out for predators.
  • They have short wings and legs and can fly at speeds up to 25 miles per hour.
  • In cold climates they nest together to conserve heat

Life Cycle

The life cycle of the burrowing owl starts when the birds first mate at the end of winter or early spring with the younger birds ready to find mates of their own for this year’s breeding season.

The life expectancy of the burrowing owl is about seven years. The males reach adulthood after their second breeding season and females after their third breeding season.


The average size of a burrow in the wild is 10″ inches in length. When they’re burrowed in the ground, they will use the cover as a cover to escape from predators.

If you were to get a close look at a burrow owl, you will notice its large head and beak, big feet, and a short body and wings.

Its mottled brown plumage is very thick, and its face is often covered in white or yellow markings. The wings are long and pointed and the body is long, wide, and strong.

Image by Denis Doukhan from Pixabay


Owls usually mate in midwinter, after which they will begin building their nests. Within the nest, a female will lay up to six to twelve eggs. If a male owl is present, he will help to care for the eggs until the chicks hatch in the spring.

In addition to housing the chicks, they also need to protect them from predators. A bird that is exposed to the elements in the wild is vulnerable to being eaten by scavengers. Burrowing owls take care of this by building a burrow around the chicks to keep them safe.

During winter, a mother owl will use her feet to protect the chicks, and a male owl may defend his territory from other males by protecting the chicks when they emerge.

During the breeding season, a single female will produce about six to twelve eggs.


Burrowing owls are able to find a variety of food sources, including insects, rodents, lizards and even other birds. Burrowing owls also enjoy eating seeds from the grasslands where they live.

The vast majority of their diet is composed of invertebrates like spiders and scorpions as well as small mammals like mice. However, these owls have been known to hunt for larger prey items such as snakes and other ground-dwelling animals when necessary.

Owls are also not known to hunt fish. They prefer fish to other types of food. They may occasionally come upon other animals that they kill and eat, although these include other birds that they have come into contact with.

The best time to see these creatures is during the winter when there are not many birds left to eat. The owl will often hunt other birds or small animals in the forests.

The most interesting fact about owls is that they have a lot of camouflage, and this is why they have become such a threat. They use their camouflage to help them blend into the forest, so they can hunt and catch prey.

It’s not unusual for owls to find themselves in a tree, even if they’re inside. They can remain hidden for days, even weeks. 


Each year, the burrowing owl leaves its home in Northern Canada and makes a long journey south to find warmer weather. These owls are able to fly thousands of miles each day with only a few hours rest on the ground or roosting in trees at night.

Their migratory route is often unpredictable as they can stop where ever they feel comfortable for food or shelter, but it generally follows along rivers until it reaches Mexico.

The migration of this species of owl takes two completely different paths. In the Eastern states, they fly north through the winter months. When they return from their winter travels, they spend the fall flying south for the spring breeding season.

They spend the winter in the eastern states and move south in the spring. But in other areas, they stay in the same areas year after year. For example, in Mexico, they never migrate southward because there they can find and mate with a variety of other species.

Where are these birds going when they do this? They are going to different parts of the world in search of a mate. Many species prefer different types of territories. Some prefer grasslands and others prefer forested lands.

Some owls travel very far. Others are more likely to travel at low altitudes. This makes sense since they don’t have to endure the cold temperatures of the north.

They will fly over water and even into the ocean to find mates. One species of an owl will fly up and down the Pacific Ocean and land on a new territory each winter. Other owls will stay in the same area year after year.

Image by Kevinsphotos from Pixabay


In order to avoid being eaten by their predators, they typically spend the day hiding in tunnels made from dirt or vegetation.

It has been found that there are a number of predators for these owls, including coyotes, bobcats, weasels, hawks, foxes, badgers, gopher snakes, and other animals who prey on them because they make easy targets when asleep.

Sounds and Calls

Burrowing owls are among the largest owls, and they can be heard at night. The first thing you will notice if you hear these owls is their eerie calls.

While these are not easy to hear, they do make quite a racket in the night. You might be able to hear them creating screeching, warbling, cooing and rattling, and even clucking sounds.

When it comes to the burrowing owl sounds and calls, the most common is the growling call. You may hear this when they are either looking for a meal or for some reason are trying to warn you of danger.

They also will make a hissing sound while they are flying, which is one of the reasons why they are such a great bird. 


Because the habitat where they live has changed over the years, the habitat that the species live in has also changed. The natural habitat of the burrowing owl will consist of forested areas with lots of vegetation, but the areas used by the owl are becoming more urbanized and developed.

As these changes take place, the owl is finding new and improved ways to navigate and hunt. As the owl migrates from the forest to the cities, it will leave behind holes in its tracks, called “wedge marks” that are usually very similar to human footprints.

Once it reaches the city, the owl will use new holes that are unique to the area it is in and the ones it has left there before it came. Burrowing owls spend a large part of their life living in the trees of forests and urban areas.

When the owl is not roosting or resting in a tree, it spends the majority of its time searching for food in fields, groves, creeks, and swamps. However, they may also roost and nest in abandoned human settlements, barns, and outbuildings in suburban or farm buildings.

The owls use these same places to rest, and in many cases, the owl will even build new nests in them. The owl uses these structures as comfortable sleeping and nesting areas.

Although habitat destruction is largely to blame for the decline of the burrowing owl, there are several threats to this species that could cause it to become endangered in the future.

To save the owl, it will be important to conserve its natural habitat in the cities and restore it to what it was when the owl was more abundant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Burrowing Owls rare?

Yes, burrowing owls are becoming rarer. This is because of habitat destruction.

How do Burrowing Owls dig their burrows?

Burrowing owls live in underground burrows. The burrows are either dug up themselves or they will take over an existing hole already dug up by another animal such as squirrels, prairie dogs, or turtles. They live in deserts and grasslands.

Can a Burrowing Owl fly?

Burrowing owls are ground-dwelling birds that only fly when necessary. Their short wingspan prevents them from flying for long distances, so if one does happen to get away, it will eventually land back on the ground again.

How long do Burrowing Owls live?

Burrowing Owls can live up to 9 years in the wild and 15 years in captivity. The majority of Burrowing Owl mortality is due to predation by other animals, but they also suffer from diseases like canine distemper virus (CDV) which kills them too.

What eats the Burrowing Owl?

There are many animals that eat burrowing owls because they make easy targets since they spend most of their time underground and have to hunt for food. Some predators include coyotes, foxes, bobcats, hawks, snakes, dogs