A burrowing owl chick and adult in Florida, USA
© Carlos Carreno/Getty Image
Wise guys. Burrowing owls
Forget looking up in the trees to find these guys. They are burrowing owls, which means that they live on the ground - or under it. They often build their nests in burrows that have been dug, and abandoned, by other animals like prairie dogs and gophers. You’ll find these small, long-legged birds in North and South America, especially in grasslands and on farmland.
Unlike most other owl species, burrowing owls prefer to be out and about during the day, catching insects (unless they are sheltering from extreme midday heat). They also hunt for small mammals at night using their superior hearing and night vision, swooping down from branches or using their long legs to hop along the ground.
In their downtime, burrowing owls snooze at the mouth of their burrows or in hollows in the ground. If they’re startled, they do a cartoonish bounce, then run to the safety of their burrows, uttering screams and clucks to scare off the intruder. They even mimic rattlesnake sounds to send their foes packing. These quirky birds also reject the traditional owl ‘woo-who’ in favour of ‘coo-coooo’ and the nighttime ‘co-hoo.’ Talk about owls of a different feather…