Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
- The burrowing owl is a ground-dwelling bird with distinctive long legs, a short tail, and very serious-looking eyes. It is further characterized by its lack of ear tufts. The feathers are a sandy brown color above, while the breast area is beige with spotted bars.
- Life History
As the name suggests, burrowing owls do excavate their own homes. If available, however, they prefer to take use other burrowing animals' dens. They typically nest in vacated prairie dog burrows where they may live sociably in colonies. These owls eat mostly insects, rodents and occasionally birds, which they hunt either by day or night. They sometimes increase their hunting prowess by following a dog or horse to take advantage of any animals that are stirred up from the grass.
Before nesting, the male owl will prepare the nest site by enlarging the burrow, if necessary, and lining the burrow with dried horse or cattle feces, apparently for egg insulation and/or possibly to camouflage the owls' scent from predators. Should the feces be removed for some reason, the owls will replace it within a day. Once owls are paired and mated, they will take turns incubating the seven to nine white eggs for about 28 days. Although these eggs originally are white, they turn an earthy brown color due to staining from the surrounding soil and insulation. Once incubation is complete, the owlets hatch some time between March and July. An amazing defense mechanism that owlets possess is their ability to perfectly mimic the rattling sound of a prairie rattlesnake.
- Burrowing owls are found throughout grasslands and deserts.
- These owls range from the western portions of North America to the arid regions of Central and South America. They winter throughout Texas and commonly breed in the Panhandle and West Texas.