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Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

Burrowing Owl


  • The burrowing owl is about 24 centimetres (9 inches) long.


  • It is easily identified by its long legs and short, barred tail.
  • The head, neck and wings are light brown with white streaks on the crown and larger spots on the back and wings.
  • A light line extends from under the throat down the middle of the breast and abdomen, and the plumage on either side is speckled and barred with brown.
  • The breeding season is spent from southern Canada to South America.
  • Winter range includes the southern states and South America.
  • In Alberta, it can be found in the short grass plains of the grassland region during the breeding season.
Natural History


  • A bird of the open country, the burrowing owl is almost always found on or close to the ground.


  • Prey includes insects and small mammals.

When Active

  • The burrowing owl is active during the early evenings and mornings.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • Five to seven eggs are laid at the end of a 1.5 to 3 metres (5 to 10 feet) burrow 30 to 90 centimetres (one to three feet) underground.
  • At this time one of the adult birds is often observed on mounds of dirt adjacent to the nest burrow.
Conservation and Management


The burrowing owl is classified as At Risk in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

This bird species is also listed as Endangered under the Wildlife Act. For more information on this species and the assessment and listing process, see:

Current management

This species is a focal species of the MULTISAR (multiple species at risk) program. See:


  • Populations are declining rapidly across Canada as a result of destruction of prairie habitat and loss of ground squirrels.
Related links


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014