Their scientific name is Athene cunicularia, meaning “wise burrower.” Unlike other owls, they spend most of their time on the ground near their burrows and they can be found all over Cape Coral near little wooden crosses that mark their burrows. One of the smallest owls in Florida, it is also the only owl that nests underground. Their burrows extend up to 10 feet in length!
Burrowing owls are endearing little owls with long, skinny legs and big yellow eyes. Their brown, mottled plumage helps them blend into the grasses near their burrows so they may be difficult to spot if they aren’t sitting on their perches.They range from about 5-9 inches in body length and their bellies are white. They do not have the ear tufts characteristic of most owls.
Burrowing owls are found mostly on vacant lots and are marked by small wooden crosses. You are likely to see these on walks, bike rides, and even driving through the neighborhood. While burrowing owls often inhabit the burrows of other animals like prairie dogs, in Florida they dig their own burrows and like to hang out on the ground around them.
Burrowing owls in Florida actually have a fairly long breeding season from February to July, but it’s possible to see baby owls even outside that time frame. Within their burrows, they lay eggs that are tended mostly by the female — as are the new babies who venture out of the burrow at about six weeks. Mom and Dad owl both hunt and feed them, but Mom hangs out with them in the period before they can fly.
So, yes you can see baby owls near the burrows throughout the year.
Burrowing owls in Florida are classified as “threatened” by the State of Florida. Possessing or selling these owls is a serious offense so don’t touch them. Even their habitat is protected which is why they are marked with wooden crosses. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law, also protects them.
Loss of their homes is one of the biggest threats to the burrowing owl. As vacant land is developed, the owls lose their habitat.They are also subject to interference by both humans and animals in addition to natural elements, particularly flooding of their nests/burrows. Efforts to control squirrel populations can also interfere with their habitat. Watch out while driving! A significant number of burrowing owls are hit by cars each year.
Cape Coral is proud of its burrowing owl population with a Burrowing Owl Festival every year at the Rotary Park. This park is located at the corner of El Dorado and Rose Garden Rd. Visitors and locals alike enjoy these adorable little birds and people can be seen photographing and filming them at their burrows. Be sure you don’t miss the opportunity to see them yourself on your visit to Cape Coral.
“Burrowing Owl: Athene cunicularia.” eBird. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2021]
“Burrowing Owl: Athene cunicularia.” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2021]
“Burrowing Owl: Athene cunicularia.” The Peregrine Fund. Web. [Accessed 10 April 2021]
“Burrowing Owl, Large-headed Burrowing Owl, Little night Owl, Columbian Owl, Short-eared Owl.” Audubon: John J. Audubon’s Birds of America.” audubon.org Web. [Accessed 10 April 2021]