Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC

All about Burrowing Owls

Habits

Standing guard near the burrow.

Unlike most birds of prey, Burrowing Owls spend a great deal of time on, or near, the ground. They make their home below ground, usually seeking out burrows abandoned by badgers or marmots. In the western US they are also found in colonial groupings near prairie dog colonies. In BC we have found them in abandoned badger and marmot burrows. The owls are resourceful and have also been found living in abandoned pipe, in depressions under buildings and other subterranean excavations that serve the purpose. The BC Burrowing owl program is largely about providing nesting and roosting opportunities for the owls. See Burrow Construction.

Burrowing owls are usually active at dawn or dusk. As ground nesters they are often spotted sitting on rocks, mounds of earth or fence posts. They will often stand motionless on one foot, but, when excited will bob up and down. Their cryptic colouration allows them to blend into the earth tones of their native grasslands, which often makes them difficult to spot at first.

Yellow-bellied Marmot.

Burrowing Owls often nest in loose colonies. Several nesting pairs may establish in relatively close proximity, perhaps due to abundant food or multiple burrow sites. Another advantage of this living strategy is that the birds serve as a warning system for the other owls concerning incoming predators.

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