Burrowing Owl

Peter LaTourrette

Listen to the Burrowing Owl song

This comical little bird is one of the most diurnal of all owls. It often perches near its hole; when approached too closely, it will bob up and down and finally dive into its burrow rather than take flight. It usually claims burrows that have been abandoned by prairie dogs or pocket gophers but is quite capable of digging its own. Sadly, recent reports show that this amusing owl is declining in population in California.

It breeds from Canada's southern prairie provinces south throughout western United States to southern California. Burrowing Owls are 9" tall, roughly the size of a robin. It has a short tail and long legs. Its eyes are yellow and there are no protruding ears.

The Imperial Valley is home to about 70% of California's breeding population of Burrowing Owls. Their population has been in sharp decline over the past 50 years. Farming and renewable energy development both present challenges for this species. Audubon California recently collected data from surveys of the Imperial Valley over the past decade, and created an online, interactive map. The map includes supporting information such as crop types, renewable energy projects, irrigation canals and drains, and more. We encourage you to explore the map, which is available here

Audubon chapters work extensively with this bird. Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society is heavily involved because the San Francisco Bay Area, historically one of four primary Burrowing Owl nesting areas in California, has suffered steep population declines in recent years. By 2010 the number of these owls in the Bay Area has declined to the to the brink of extinction. In fact, in 2009 fewer than forty nesting pairs lived in Santa Clara Valley, mostly restricted to northern county bayside parks, golf courses, airports, and rural lands near Alviso and Mission College. This chapter is diligently advocating for the preservation, restoration and enhancement of the Western Burrowing Owl and its habitat in cities along the San Francisco Bay.*

*taken from Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society website.

Copyright  2015 National Audubon Society, Inc