Burrowing Owl (Speotyto cunicularia) ~ Great Plains race

Burrowing Owls are small grassland birds that inhabit Canada's prairie provinces (they are also found in areas of the western United States and Florida). They have undergone a considerable amount of publicity in the last few decades as populations have suffered terrible declines due to habitat loss. Burrowing Owls are unique among North American owls for nesting in underground burrows. These burrows, excavated by prairie dogs, are ideal shelters from Ferruginous Hawks (Buteo regalis), foxes and other predatory animals.

All ground nesting owl species incur high clutching mortality rates because of their easy accessibility to predators. Burrowing Owls are no exception. To counteract this, breeding pairs produce large broods (seven to ten, usually) and will sometimes double clutch (two broods in a one season).

In the early 1980s The Owl Foundation took on the monumental task of building a Burrowing Owl breeding complex where permanently crippled, non-releasable birds could pair up, select from a series of tunnel systems and breed. This successful venture resulted in twenty years of healthy young Burrowing Owls. These were trained to live prey and shipped by air to Regina where experienced biologists undertook their release into the wild (between 1982 and 1996, 131 youngsters were introduced to the wild). Unfortunately, as habitat has continued to disappear and predator numbers have increased (not to mention an increase in automobiles along migration routes), the success rate for our few releasable young has dropped severely. As a result, the Burrowing Owl breeding program at The Owl Foundation has, sadly, come to an end.


Burrowing Owls produce a wide variety of clicks, whines and hoots, many of which are alarm calls directed toward the young (fledgling Burrowing Owls at The Owl Foundation are often only seen from behind as they scurry en masse into their burrow). In breeding season, males produce a "coo-COO" call to woo a potential mate.


This one produced by a female
Alarm Call

A pair vocalizing back and forth
Contact Call

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Owl vocalizations recorded by Kara Kristjanson.
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