Did you know that Florida is home to a unique species of owl that nests in burrows on the ground? It’s true. The burrowing owl, one of the smallest species of owls in Florida, makes its home on the ground in grasslands and treeless areas. One of the five species of owls that live here year-round, burrowing owls can be found in specific areas and habitats within the state. Biological studies continue to map where these birds reside, as they have been forced to become resilient and adaptable due to their historical habitat range shrinking from development.

Measuring only 9 inches tall with a wingspan of around 21 inches, these pint-sized birds of prey are as cute as they are interesting. They have rounded heads that lack ear tufts and are unmistakable with their bright, yellow eyes. Their diet consists mainly of insects, but they will also prey on small animals, such as rodents, frogs and snakes, given the opportunity. Burrowing owls are often found on flat prairie grounds, as well as golf courses, pastures, agricultural fields and even in empty lots and spaces.

To nest, the single-breeding pairs will dig out burrows which safely house their family until it is time for the babies to fledge, around 12 weeks later. These ground-dwelling birds are also unique in the fact that they are not strictly nocturnal and can be seen in daylight hours. Burrowing owls lay an average of eight eggs and will reuse their same nesting burrow the following year. Nesting season is the time in which burrowing owls are most frequently observed, as they spend their days outside of and around their burrows.

Burrowing owl populations are unfortunately dwindling in the state due to overdevelopment and loss of habitat. They are classified as a threatened species within Florida and are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is important to remember that we share our land, our resources and our vast spaces with other species such as the burrowing owls. The best way that we can help them is to keep Florida wild by reducing our environmental footprint and being conscious stewards of our environment. Reducing the use of pesticides is also beneficial to all birds of prey. This will allow our futures generations to be able to experience and enjoy the abundance and beauty of all Florida wildlife.

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