2012 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2015 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL15 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
BULLETnature archive
Nature Archive Photo
© Bruce D. Taubert

>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.
Hoo Are You? Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo?
They're not the rock stars of the owl kingdom — that label probably belongs to the spotted owls — but if they could, burrowing owls would smash a guitar over the heads of any obsessed intruder who tried invading their underground spaces.

By Jodi Cisman

For residents of outlying areas such as Litchfield Park, Bullhead City, Oro Valley and many others, the sight of a burrowing owl perched on a fence post or scurrying through a plot of seemingly barren land is pretty common.

Although adult owls exude a kind of self-assuredness, standing tall on watchtowers to protect their burrows, they're actually quite small, rising a mere 10 inches from the ground and weighing only 6 ounces, on average.

But don't let their size fool you. The owls might be small, but they carry the proverbial big stick. Their hoo-hoos, rasps, chucks, chatters and screams can be heard from miles away, and when threatened, the owlets make a low, rattlesnake-like buzz to warn off predators and alert the adults.

Burrowing owls thrive in most states west of the Mississippi River, but unlike other owl species, they live underground in a series of tunnels that can span a 2-mile radius. Because of the nature of their subterranean homes, these little creatures are drawn to sparsely vegetated, dry grasslands and agricultural rangelands.

In Arizona, habitats are continually threatened by land development. When bulldozers begin bulldozing, the burrows become tombs because the owls tend to recede farther into the ground instead of fleeing. When the land is left intact, however, desert dwellings provide an abundance of insects, rodents and small amphibians that make the owls' mouths water. Their favorite insects are crunchy scarab beetles, stinging scorpions and crispy crickets.

On occasion, they treat themselves to prickly pear and cholla cactus fruit, which is a behavior unique to burrowing owls.

Turns out, their desert-floor diet isn't only good for their stomachs, it also helps control the population of tropical house geckos and field mice, especially when the owls have a family of four to five owlets to feed.

Nesting season begins in late March or early April, when female owls begin gathering a wide variety of organic materials to build their nests. The most common component is mammal dung. Researchers believe the dung helps control the microclimate of the burrow and might even attract insects for the owls to feed on.

Female owls lay one or two eggs a day until they collect a clutch of about nine eggs. At that point they spend a month incubating their eggs while the males tend to the hunting. And the system seems to be working. Burrowing owls are to rural Arizona what pigeons are to the inner city. They've been spotted nesting on irrigation canals, golf courses and even near airports, which only seems natural for such self-assured little creatures.

>> Back to Nature Archive


Story ArchivesFind previously published stories online... [more]

Global SnapshotsSend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

Photo of the DaySend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

 

Social MediaJoin our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr communities for behind-the-scenes glimpses at Arizona Highways... [more]

Events & PromotionsEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

Travel GuidesThere's so much to see and do in Arizona. Let our online travel guide be your one-stop resource for planning your next Arizona adventure... [more]

site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

© Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.