Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Athene cunicularia

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Great Southwest


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Biography

Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are active during the day. As their name implies, these small owls nest in abandoned prairie dog, tortoise and rodent burrows. Their nesting chamber is usually at the end of a tunnel, 5 ft. or more long, and is lined with grass, feathers and other materials. Both parents incubate the 6-11 eggs. The young spend most of their life underground, but emerge before they are fully fledged, to exercise their flight muscles. When disturbed in the burrow, the owls make a rattling hiss that mimics the buzzing sound of an irate rattlesnake. Possibly, this sound helps to scare off potential predators. A voracious feeder, this owl can eat its own weight in a day. Its diet consists of ground squirrels, snakes, lizards, birds and insects. In winter, some burrowing owls migrate to warmer climates.

Our Animal's Story

We have six burrowing owls on exhibit. Two of the females arrived as fertile eggs from The National Zoo in Washington D.C. in 2012. Upon hatching, our staff hand-raised them. Once they were adults, they went into the open desert garden. Their names are Sarge and Digger. Our male burrowing owl, Carl, arrived at ZooAmerica in October 2016 from the Staten Island Zoo. He hatched at the Sacramento Zoo in May 2014. We were pleasantly surprised when we discovered 3 chicks that hatched and were reared in the garden exhibit by their parents during the summer of 2018. All 3 chicks are now adult sized so it can be challenging to distinguish between the parents and their offspring.

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