April 8, 2016
- as seen by -Craig Gibbs
Burrowing owls, Athene cunicularia, are found throughout the Americas and Caribbean, inhabiting grasslands and arid regions. Cowboys were known to call these birds “howdy owls” because they would sit in front of their burrows and nod “howdy” as the cattlemen rode by.
Burrowing owls are ground-dwelling species with long legs, a brown body with speckles of white, white “eyebrows”, and the absence of ear tufts. They are unlike most owls in that both males and females are about the same size, standing approximately 10 inches tall, weigh six ounces, and have a wingspan of 20 to 24 inches.
More diurnal than most owls, burrowing owls do most their hunting in the early mornings or late afternoons. Hunting small prey by either running, or short flights; their prey ranges from various arthropods to small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
Burrowing owls in Florida dig their own burrow for nesting, but most species found in the western and southwestern United States utilize the abandoned burrows of prairie dogs, armadillos, skunks, or pocket gophers.
At the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo, burrowing owls are part of the thick-billed parrot exhibit. Their inclusion in the exhibit will further educate people on intricate ecosystems and the animals that share them that we are committed to protecting.