Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)


French: Chevêche des terriers German: Kaninchenkauz Spanish: Mochuelo de madriguera

Strix Cunicularia


, 1782,



Sometimes placed in separate monotypic genus Speotyto on basis of morphological and karyotypic differences, but osteological features and DNA support inclusion in Athene. Some of the races described could reflect merely individual variation or intergrading populations, and thus probably not acceptable; e.g. apurensis often synonymized with carrikeri, and intermedia often with nanodes, while minor sometimes subsumed within brachyptera, and partridgei within nominate; subspecific taxa and delimitations require critical re-evaluation with modern systematic methods, although some certainly appear distinct. Twenty extant subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. c. hypugaea (Bonaparte, 1825) – from S Canada (W of E edge of Great Plains) S to C Mexico; in winter S to El Salvador#R.
  • A. c. rostrata (C. H. Townsend, 1890) – Clarión I, in W Revillagigedo Is (off W Mexico).
  • A. c. floridana (Ridgway, 1874) – SE USA (Florida, marginally also Georgia) and Bahamas.
  • A. c. guantanamensis (Garrido, 2001) – SE Cuba.
  • A. c. troglodytes (Wetmore & Swales, 1931) – Hispaniola, including Gonâve I and Beata I.
  • A. c. amaura (Lawrence, 1878) – Antigua and Nevis (N Lesser Antilles).
  • A. c. guadeloupensis (Ridgway, 1874) – Guadeloupe (NC Lesser Antilles).
  • A. c. arubensis (Cory, 1915) – Aruba (Leeward Antilles).
  • A. c. brachyptera (Richmond, 1896) – Margarita I, off N Venezuela.
  • A. c. apurensis (Gilliard, 1940) – WC Venezuela.
  • A. c. minor (Cory, 1918) – C & SE Venezuela, S Guyana and extreme N Brazil (Roraima).
  • A. c. carrikeri (Stone, 1922) – E Colombia (Arauca and Meta) to NW Venezuela.
  • A. c. tolimae (Stone, 1899) – SW Colombia (upper Magdalena Valley in Tolima and Huila).
  • A. c. pichinchae (Boetticher, 1929) – W Ecuador (Andes from S Carchi to C Loja).
  • A. c. punensis (Chapman, 1914) – SW Ecuador (C Manabí) S in coastal region to NW Peru (Piura).
  • A. c. intermedia (Cory, 1915) – coastal W Peru.
  • A. c. nanodes (Berlepsch & Stolzmann, 1892) – coastal SW Peru to N Chile (Arica).
  • A. c. juninensis (Berlepsch & Stolzmann, 1902) – Andes from C Peru to W Bolivia and NW Argentina.
  • A. c. boliviana (L. Kelso, 1939) – SE Bolivia (Santa Cruz)#R.
  • A. c. grallaria (Temminck, 1822) – C & E Brazil (Maranhão and Rio Grande do Norte S to SE Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraná).
  • A. c. partridgei Olrog, 1976 – NE Argentina (Corrientes).
  • A. c. cunicularia (Molina, 1782) – S Bolivia and S Brazil S to Tierra del Fuego.
  • Also (race undescribed) very locally in W & N Cuba and I of Pines.

    Descriptive notes

    19–26 cm; male averages 146·3 g (hypugaea), 148·8 g (floridana), 200·6 g (nominate); female averages 156·1 g (... read more


    “Coo coooo” given exclusively by male; male also gives series of 5–8 high-pitched... read more


    Dry and open habitats: treeless plains, grassland, prairie, savanna, desert or farmland; golf... read more

    Food and feeding

    Primarily arthropods and small mammals; also amphibians and reptiles. In Oregon, invertebrates made up 91·6% of diet by number but... read more


    Season Mar–Aug. Monogamous, occasionally polygynous; both pair-retention and pair-splitting observed; duration of pair-bond varies... read more


    Most N populations migrate or disperse; little information on routes, times and wintering areas;... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Listed as endangered in Minnesota and Iowa, and species of special concern in Washington, Oregon, California, Montana,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L., de Juana, E. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 7 December 2019).