Resident Raptor - Burrowing Owl
Linnaeus DNA-sexed as female, was found in Burns, Oregon in July 2005. Still an immature bird, she was hit by a car, resulting in multiple fractures of both the radius and ulna of the left wing. A veterinarian pinned both bones so that they would at least heal and the wing could be saved, but there was little hope of return to function. She was placed with us in September of 2005.
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
A small, sandy-brown ground owl with long legs and a short tail. Head is
speckled, with white eyebrows; dark collar on white throat; back is spotted
and underside is barred. Flight is labored and undulating, usually close to
the ground; frequently hovers. Often seen in the daytime, standing on open
ground or near mounded burrow entrance. Frequently bobs up and down. No
major coloration difference between the sexes, as with most raptors, but
unlike other birds of prey, there is not much size difference between males
Size - Length: 9-11" • Wing Span: 20-24" • Weight: 4.2-6.5 oz.
Status - Listed as a "species of special
concern" in several states, including Oregon. Considered extirpated (wiped
out) in the Willamette Valley.
Habitat - These ground dwelling owls
keep to open country -- grassland and desert. Most often associated with
prairie dog or ground squirrel colonies, taking over abandoned burrows of
these rodents or of badger, skunk, or fox, extending them by digging with
their beak and kicking out loose soil with their feet.
Diet - Hunt mostly in the early evening
and into the night, but also by day. Their varied diet consists primarily of
insects and small mammals, but they also go after small birds, reptiles, and
amphibians. Often hover hunt in twilight hours.
Call - Have a high, dove-like call of
coo-coo-hoo or coo-hoo; a tremulous chattering when alarmed; young owls are
known for their 'rattlesnake rasp' warning call, which seems to mimic the
sound of a rattlesnake.
Nesting - During breeding season, they
live in loose colonies surrounded by bare ground or short grass. When not
disturbed, those in nonmigrating populations will use the same burrow year
Most Common Problems - As with all owls,
the most common cause of injury is collision with vehicles. Also tangling in
fences. Rodent poisoning campaigns and habitat destruction is common in
ranchlands, where prairie dogs and ground squirrels are considered pests
because their networks of burrows may pose a risk of leg injury to