9-11" (23-28 cm). Small owl with no ear tufts on rounded head; stubby tail and long legs. Earth brown with white spots on back, wings, and crown; whitish below with brown barring. Whitish eyebrows and chin stripe; yellow eyes. Immature has no barring below.
A cackling alarm note: quick-quick-quick. Also a mellow, rolling dove-like coo- c-o-o.
Breeds in southwestern Canada, south through western U.S., central Mexico, and central and southern Florida, to much of South America (locally). Withdraws from northernmost portions of breeding range in northern winter. Winters regularly south to portions of Central America.
Found in open grasslands (especially prairies, plains and savannas), and sometimes in open areas such as airports or vacant lots near human habitation. In southern Idaho, nests in sagebrush steppe and agricultural lands.
Primarily Nocturnal in winter in northern range, diurnal and crepuscular in summer. Catches prey in flight or drops to ground. Nests and roosts in burrow dug by mammal or owl. May mimic rattlesnake if disturbed in burrow. Territory defense is mainly limited to immediate vicinity of nest burrow; may share foraging area. Badger plays important role in nesting ecology in Idaho -- provides nest burrows and is a major predator. Reported densities: 12.5 ha/pair (California); 3.5-6 ha/pair (North Dakota); 13-16 ha/pair (Saskatchewan). Home range in Saskatchewan reported at 0.14-4.81 km2; 95% of all movements were within 600 m of nest burrow.
|Status:||Protected nongame species|
Rich, T. 1986. Habitat and nest-site selection by burrowing owls in the sagebrush steppe of Idaho. J. Wildl. Manage. 50:548-555.