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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 in the Great Southwest building. Carl, a male owl who hatched in May 2014, arrived at ZooAmerica in October 2016 from the Staten Island Zoo. He lives in the desert garden with 2 of his male offspring. Digger, a female owl, arrived in 2012 from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., as a fertile egg. This egg was incubated at ZooAmerica and she was hand-raised by our staff. She lives in one of the nocturnal exhibits (the one with the well) with 2 female offspring that she and Carl hatched and raised in the desert garden habitat.