Western Burrowing Owl

ATHENE CUNICULARIA HYPUGAEA

The Brandywine Zoo has two Western Burrowing Owls. Our female Dori, was hatched at the Sacramento Zoo on April 7, 2010. She came to us from the Sedgwick Zoo on April 3, 2013. Dori has a metal band on her left leg. Our male, Gimli, was hatched on May 6, 2017 at the Knoxville Zoo and was acquired on November 11, 2019.

HABITAT
Deserts, dunes, grasslands, and savannas

GEOGRAPHIC REGION AND RANGE
The burrowing owl is found in many regions in North and South America.

DIET
Frogs, lizards, insects, and small rodents

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION
The burrowing owl has a brown body that is speckled with white. It has lanky, featherless legs, and round yellow eyes.

SIZE
Height: 7.5-11 inches; Wingspan: 20-24 inches

WEIGHT
4.9-8.5 oz

LIFESPAN
Wild: About 9 years
Under Human Care: Over 10 years

THREATS
Burrowing owls are endangered in Canada, and threatened in Mexico. Due to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, the number of burrowing owls in South America has significantly declined. Land development in North America has become a major threat to the habitat ofthese animals.

STATUS
Least Concern

REPRODUCTION
• Burrowing owls lay about 12 eggs at a time.
• After about one month of incubation, the eggs hatch and the parents share responsibility of caring for the babies.

BEHAVIOR
• The burrowing owl is active during the day, meaning it is diurnal, unlike most owls who are nocturnal.
• They spend most of their time on the ground.

SOCIAL STRUCTURE
• Burrowing owls live in colonies, and usually form a permanent bond with a mate.
• Colonies usually consist of 9-19 owls, and have no complex social order.

COMMUNICATION
• They produce a variety of calls – they have a primary call, five calls for copulation, and seven calls for defense or food begging.
• They use alarm calls to warn other members of the colony of potential danger.

FUN FACTS

The book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen and the 2006 film of the same name, are about a group of teenagers trying to halt construction to save the habitat of burrowing owls in Florida.

When young burrowing owls feel threatened, they hide in their burrow and make rattlesnake-like sounds to scare off predators.

They can turn their heads almost 270 degrees! This allows them to better see their surroundings, as their eyes cannot move in their sockets.

Burrowing owls will incorporate mammal dung into their burrow – this helps keep the burrow stable and a comfortable temperature. It also attracts dung beetles which the owls can capture and it!

What are AZA Zoos doing for Burrowing Owls?

Their zoo population is managed through conservation breeding programs called Species Survival Plan programs, which ensures genetic diversity and species health. As of 2018, the Association ofZoo & Aquariums (AZA) burrowing owl population was 156 birds at 45 different institutions. Many AZA accredited zoos are working to help these owls recover their former ranges, protect their habitats from development, and study the species behaviors.

More images of our Burrowing Owls