The Prairie Owl

Burrowing owls are summer residents of the Western U.S., from the High Plains through the Intermountain West; they are also permanent residents of Florida and the Desert Southwest.  Come fall, northern residents migrate to the Desert Southwest or Mexico.

Favoring open grasslands and deserts, burrowing owls are named for their use of underground burrows for roosting and nesting; while some dig their own cavity, most use the abandoned burrows of prairie dogs, badgers, ground squirrels or armadillos.  These small, long-legged owls are active day and night and are best observed at dawn or dusk when they often stand near their burrow, ready to pounce on a grasshopper, lizard or mouse.  Attempting to draw beetles and other insects within close range, these opportunistic raptors are known to place cattle, horse or bison dung near the opening of their burrow.  Seldom observed in flight, burrowing owls prefer to hunt on foot; however, they occasionally perch on fenceposts to survey the area, gliding down to snare their prey.

Here in southwest Metro Denver, burrowing owls are perhaps best found in the large prairie dog colonies along Roxborough Park Road, south of Titan Road; this dirt-gravel road is south of Chatfield State Park.  Since they are summer residents in Colorado, look for them from April through early October.