San Francisco Bay Wildlife
Wildlife of the San Francisco Bay Area


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Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl Range Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl photos on this page are courtesy of Scott Artis.

Burrowing Owl - Athene cunicularia


Burrowing owls in California primarily rely upon burrows dug by California Ground Squirrels for nesting sites. For owls they are unusual in being diurnal. They can be seen standing around near their burrow, often perched on something at a slight elevation. The Bay Area is historically one of four primary Burrowing Owl nesting areas in California.

They are listed as a species of "Special Concern" in California. The state population declined 60% from the 1980's to the early 90's, and continues to decline at roughly 8% per year. The population in the Bay Area has been falling in response to loss of habitat.

The famous owls at Mission College, Santa Clara have been reduced from 60 to one pair! The Santa Clara Valley 2006 Burrowing Owl census revealed that local owls are now almost completely restricted to bayside parks, airports, and the edges of golf courses. 2009 data showed less than 40 nesting pairs in Santa Clara valley. Mountain View Shoreline Park and the San Jose Airport host stable populations of the owls because they have managers who maintain the short grass habitat they require. The other bayside parks and airports have fewer or no owls even though the species historically lived at these sites. (Santa Clara Valley information from SCVAS website).

Where to View

  • Eastern Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
  • Shoreline Park at Mountain View
  • North San Jose, San Josť-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility
  • Prewett Family Park in Antioch
  • Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley, Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline, Oakland - in winter.

Articles and Links


  • Burrowing Owls of the South Bay (San Francisco Bay Area) - Facebook page by the Burrowing Owl Committee of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. 
  • Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (SCVAS) and Burrowing Owl Protection 
  • New hope for city's Burrowing Owls by Daniel DeBolt in Mountain View Voice, 6 Apr. 2012. Plans to help Burrowing Owls in Shoreline Park. 
  • Yahoo group discussing the Burrowing Owl and its conservation in California 
  • Burrowing Owl Conservation Network - advocates for the protection and restoration of the Western Burrowing Owl 
  • Western Burrowing Owl Conservation Strategy as part of Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP) 
  • 2012 Burrowing Owl Staff Report on Burrowing Owl Mitigation by California Department of Fish and Game (DFG). 
  • Effort to recover Burrowing Owl population in North San Jose by San Josť-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility, August 2013 
  • Photos from a population in North San Jose 
  • Story of a Burrowing Owl rescue and release by Wildlife Emergency Services, in Santa Clara County, Jan 2013. 


  • Burrowing Owl life history from Cornell Lab of Ornithology 
  • The Little Owls That Live Underground, by John Moir,, 13 May 2010. 
  • Do Burrowing Owls Bait for Beetles?, by Joe Eaton, Berkeley Daily Planet, 4 Feb 2009. 
  • Burrowing Owl Preservation Society - mission is to increase Burrowing Owl populations through research, education, and the protection, preservation and enhancement of Burrowing Owl's grassland habitat. 


Reversing the Trend video from Santa Clara Valley Audubon

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