Digging holes in grasslands, deserts, and open plains, or adopting another animal’s abandoned subterranean shelter, the burrowing owl is the only owl species that lives underground. This clip from The Smithsonian Channel‘s Into the Wild Columbia shows one owl protecting above ground while another one keeps eggs warm below. From All About Birds:
Nesting owls tend to use areas with a high density of surrounding burrows, which may provide extra escape options for developing young. Preferred sites have loose soil, a bit of elevation to avoid flooding, and nearby lookouts such as dirt mounds, bushes, fence posts, or road signs. They use burrows dug by prairie dogs, ground squirrels, badgers, marmots, skunks, armadillos, kangaroo rats, and tortoises…
The nest burrow can be several yards long and is usually less than 3 feet deep, but size depends on the mammal that originally excavated it. Burrows tend to make numerous twists and turns, with a mound of dirt at the entrance and an opening at least 4–6 inches wide. The owls often line their burrow with livestock manure, sometimes with feathers, grass, or other materials. When owls dig their own burrows, the process may take several days, but it takes them less time to prepare the burrow for nesting when they use an existing burrow.
Watch this next: The Burrowing Owl’s Cozy Underground Home.