About This Species
Like the name suggests, Burrowing Owls like to burrow into holes in the ground to nest. They can be found nesting in small groups in the grasslands and arid regions of western North America and Florida, and across the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America as well. The Burrowing Owl used to be called the "Howdy Birds" by cowboys because of the way it appears to nod in greeting. This owl hunts day and night, using a variety of methods, hopping or running across the ground after large insects, or swooping down on insects and rodents while flying or perched above the ground. The Burrowing Owl is capable of digging, but often uses an existing hole provided by prairie dogs, skunks or armadillos. The owls along the northern parts of the range are migratory, inhabiting open, treeless areas.
The Burrowing Owl is considered endangered or threatened in some areas. Its population has been on the decline for many years, in part because of programs attempting to control prairie dog and ground squirrel populations. Because the owls use prairie dog and ground squirrel holes for burrows, as those animals were thinned out, the owls were impacted. The population has also been impacted by habitat loss from land development and accidents—many are killed by cars.
By 2080, Audubon's climate models predict that the Burrowing Owl could lose 77 percent of its current breeding range. Its winter range will also be impacted by climate change, leaving only 33 percent intact, and shifting the remaining 67 percent elsewhere.