Western Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugea)

Federal Register | Recovery | Critical Habitat | Conservation Plans | Petitions | Life History

Listing Status:   

General Information

The Burrowing Owl is small ground-dwelling diurnal owl with several distinctive features including its bright yellow eyes, long legs and characteristic bobbing behavior when disturbed. Burrowing Owls range in length from 19-25 cm and have brown and buffy-white spotted feathers with a buffy-white eyebrow. Males are slightly larger than females. Juveniles are distinguishable from adults by their solid buff colored breast and wings (Poulin et al. 2011).

Citations:

  • Dechant, J. A., M. L. Sondreal, D. H. Johnson, L. D. Igl, C. M. Goldade, P. A. Rabie, and B. R. Euliss. 1999 (revised 2002). Effects of management practices on grassland birds: Burrowing owl. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, ND. 33 pages.
  • Martin, D.J. 1973. Selected Aspects of Burrowing owl Ecology and Behavior. The Condor 75(4): 446-456.
  • Poulin, Ray, L. Danielle Todd, E. A. Haug, B. A. Millsap and M. S. Martell. 2011. Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/061
  • Smallwood, S.K. and C. Thelander. 2008. Bird Mortality in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area. The Journal of Wildlife Management 72(1): 215-223.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS ). 2002. Raptors: Diurnal and Nocturnal Birds of Prey. Fact Sheet. Web. 06 August 2011.

  • States/US Territories in which the Western Burrowing owl is known to or is believed to occur:  Colorado
  • US Counties in which the Western Burrowing owl is known to or is believed to occur:  View All
  • Countries in which the the Western Burrowing owl is known to occur:  Canada, Mexico
  • Additional species information
 
Current Listing Status Summary
Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed
Pacific Region (Region 1)

» Federal Register Documents

Federal Register Documents
Date Citation Page Title
01/25/2005 70 FR 3546 3548 Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Lamont Public Utility District in Kern County, CA
03/07/2005 70 FR 11022 11024 Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit Associated with a Habitat Conservation Plan for Western Placer County, CA
11/04/2002 67 FR 67209 67210 Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior:Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan for the Natomas Basin, Sacramento County, CA; Extension of comment period and notice of availability.
12/04/2001 66 FR 63065 63066 Notice of Intent: Coyote Springs Investments Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan
01/10/2005 70 FR 1737 1738 Notice of Intent to Scope for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit Associated with the Agua Calliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Habitat Conservation Plan, Riverside County, CA
11/02/2007 72 FR 62254 62256 Coyote Springs Investment Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan, Clark County and Lincoln County, NV, Notice of availability and receipt of application
11/15/1994 59 FR 58982 59028 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species.
09/02/2005 70 FR 52434 52436 Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report and Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan, Contra Costa County, CA
06/04/2004 69 FR 31632 31635 Availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report for an Incidental Take Permit for the Multiple Habitat Consrevation Program, Carlsbad, CA
01/25/2005 70 FR 3546 3548 Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Lamont Public Utility District in Kern County, CA
01/25/2005 70 FR 3546 3548 http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/pdf/05-1287.pdf
03/14/2005 70 FR 12497 12498 Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the North County Multiple Species Conservation Program, San Diego, CA

» Recovery

No recovery information is available for the Western Burrowing owl.

» Critical Habitat

No critical habitat rules have been published for the Western Burrowing owl.

» Conservation Plans

Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) (learn more)
HCP Plan Summaries
ARCO Coles Levvee (ARCO Western Energy)
Cal. Dept. of Corrections Statewide Electrified Fence Project
Chevron Pipeline
Coachella Valley Multi-Species HCP
Corrections Corporation of America
Coyote Springs Investment Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan
East Contra Costa County HCP/NCCP
El Sobrante Landfill
Fieldstone/La Costa & City of Carlsbad
Kern Water Bank
Lake Mathews
Lamont Public Utility District
MHCP, City of Carlsbad Habitat Management Plan
MSCP, City of Chula Vista Subarea Plan
MSCP, City of La Mesa Subarea Plan
MSCP, City of Poway Subarea Plan
MSCP, City of San Diego Subarea Plan
MSCP, County of San Diego Subarea Plan
Natomas Basin, Metro Air Park
Natomas Basin Revised HCP and Litigation Resolution - City of Sacramento, Sutter County, and Natomas Basin Conservancy
North Peak Development Project
Nuevo-Torch
PG&E San Joaquin Valley Operations & Maintenance HCP
Rancho Bella Vista (Pacific Bay Properties)
San Diego Gas & Electric
San Joaquin County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation and Open Space Plan
Santa Clara Valley HCP/NCCP
Seneca and Enron Oil and Gas
Southern California Edison Etiwanda and Miraloma Corridor Low-Effect HCP (Riverside/San Bernardino Cnty, CA)
Teichert Vernalis Project, Phases 1&2
U.S. Borax
Western Riverside MSHCP (One permit w/ 22 permittees)
Woodville Solid Waste Disposal Site Expansion
Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCA): (learn more)
CCA Plan Summaries
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA): (learn more)
CCAA Plan Summaries
4W Ranch, Harshbarger

» Petitions

» Life History

Habitat Requirements

Burrowing Owls prefer habitats within deserts, grasslands, and shrub-steppe, and utilize well-drained, level to gently sloping areas characterized by sparse vegetation and bare ground such as moderately or heavily grazed pasture. They prefer short grass for nesting, but will forage over areas of tall vegetation (Dechant et al. 1999, revised 2002, p. 3). However, there is evidence that vegetation over 3.3 ft may be too tall for Burrowing Owls to locate prey. Types of foraging areas include cropland, pasture, prairie dog colonies, fallow fields, and sparsely vegetated areas (Dechant et al. 1999, revised 2002, p. 7). Burrowing Owls have been found in active prairie dog burrows, and are more likely to demonstrate increase survival and decreased predation at large, well-populated active prairie dog sites than smaller, inactive sites (Dechant et al. 1999, revised 2002, p. 5). Burrowing Owls also regularly utilize developed areas such as agricultural fields, golf courses, cemeteries, road allowances, airports, vacant urban lots, and fairgrounds (Poulin et al. 2011).

Food Habits

Burrowing Owls prey on arthropods and small mammals (Dechant et al. 1999, revised 2002, p. 6). Highest periods of foraging for Burrowing Owls occur just after sunset and just before sunrise. Burrowing Owls may perch or fly low along the ground to spot prey. Burrowing Owls may also hover 33-98 ft off the ground as a foraging approach, but also demonstrate typical raptor-type attacks when capturing prey (Martin 1973).

Movement / Home Range

The Burrowing Owl’s breeding range extends through most of the western United States from the eastern parts of California, Washington and Oregon through to the western edge of Minnesota and down into northern Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and western Oklahoma. The year-round range extends primarily through southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and into northern Mexico. Burrowing Owls may also occur year-round in Florida and areas of the Caribbean. The Burrowing Owl wintering range extends from northern Mexico down into South America (Poulin et al. 2011). Burrowing Owls are migratory; however some Burrowing Owls have been known to winter on their breeding grounds (Dechant et al. 1999, revised 2002, p. 9; Poulin et al. 2011). In the Northern Great Plains, Burrowing Owls begin fall migration in late August and migrate through mid-October, showing a southern migration route through Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma (Poulin et al. 2011).

Reproductive Strategy

Egg laying for Burrowing Owls begins in late-April and extends to early/mid-May. Burrowing Owls nest underground and commonly use black-tailed prairie dog and Richardson’s ground squirrel burrows for their nesting sites. However, they have been known to use burrows created by other kinds of prairie dogs, squirrels and other burrowing animals as their nest sites in the absence of these species (Dechant et al. 1999, revised 2002, p. 3). Burrows are often selected in areas where there are a high density of burrows and are often surrounded by bare ground or very low and sparse vegetation. Nests usually contain one clutch per nest, but the female may re-nest if the first clutch is destroyed early in the breeding season. Young are born altricial, but can walk to occupy nearby burrows by two weeks of age. In non-migratory populations, nests are utilized and maintained throughout the year. It has been observed that many migratory Burrowing Owls return to the same burrows in subsequent years (Poulin et al. 2011).

Other

The primary reasons for the decline of Burrowing Owls have been identified as the elimination of burrowing mammals through control programs and habitat loss (USFWS 2002). Concerns with wind development and Burrowing Owls include habitat destruction and fragmentation (Dechant et al. 1999, revised 2002, p. 9). Collision with wind turbines is also a potential risk for this species as demonstrated by the mass mortality at the Altamont Pass facility (Smallwood and Thelander 2008).

» Other Resources

NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.

FWS Digital Media Library -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library is a searchable collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications, and video.