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GAP Analysis Predicted Distribution Map

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

Species Code: ATCU

This is an "at risk" species

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Predicted breeding range

= Core Habitat
= Marginal Habitat


Burrowing owl photo

Fact Sheet: Basic | Advanced

Breeding Range Map
The green area shows the predicted habitats for breeding only. The habitats were identified using 1991 satellite imagery, Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA), other datasets and experts throughout the state, as part of the Washington Gap Analysis Project. Habitats used during non-breeding months and migratory rest-stops were not mapped.

NatureMapping observations map   Map with Breeding 
Bird Atlas records
Observations | Historic Gap points

Metadata (Data about data or how the map was made)


This species is local and uncommon in shrub-steppe and grassland habitats in eastern Washington. They are actually widespread throughout the southern parts of this region, but numbers fluctuate and breeders are limited to areas with suitable burrow sites. Nest sites include rocky outcroppings, ground-squirrel burrows, drainage pipes, and artificial burrows provided by wildlife. In most areas, numbers are seriously declining.

All steppe zones within its range were core areas of use. All steppe habitats were good, and irrigated farmland in Central Arid Steppe was included knowing that there may be smaller pockets of habitat suitable for them.

This genus was split from the Old World genus Athene in 1991. Washington breeders represent the widespread western subspecies S. c. hypugaea. The limiting factor for this species is nest-site availability, so despite a large area of suitable foraging habitat, Burrowing Owls will not be present without rocky outcrop or drainage pipe to support nesting. In the Potholes area, several artificial burrows have been installed by conservationists and are being utilized by owls as nesting sites. Declines have been especially pronounced in the channeled scablands, Okanogan valley, and southeastern Washington. In southern Walla Walla County, eight known breeding sites have been lost to agriculture since 1979. However, conversion of lands to agriculture need not lead to the loss of Burrowing Owls if nest sites are conserved or provided, and if the land is managed so as to maintain the prey base. The loss of Columbia Ground Squirrel colonies also apparently negatively impacts Burrowing Owls in southeastern Washington. Burrowing Owls frequently utilize the burrows left by ground squirrels, since they cannot create their own burrows. This species may have formerly nested in the vicinity of Bellingham and around Grays Harbor, but, if so, it has apparently been extirpated from these sites.

Translated from the Washington Gap Analysis Bird Volume by Uchenna Bright
Text edited by Gussie Litwer
Webpage designed by Dave Lester