Owl rabbit

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Owl rabbit
Burrowing Owl 4325.jpg

Rabbit Owl ( Athene cunicularia )

Class : Birds (aves)
Order : Owls (Strigiformes)
Family : Real owls (Strigidae)
Genre : Little owl ( Athene )
Type : Owl rabbit
Scientific name
Athene cunicularia
( Molina , 1782)
Distribution map of the owl rabbit. Blue: wintering areas; Ocher: Summer only; Green: all year round
Rabbit owl brings food for the young bird
Feed transfer

The burrowing owl ( Athene cunicularia ), and rabbit owl Präriekauz, Prärieeule or Höhleneule called, is an owl of the genus Athene ( Athena ), which is characterized by very long legs. It lives as a ground dweller in the grass steppes of western North and South America to Cape Horn , and it is also found in isolated populations in Florida and on some Caribbean islands .


The owl reaches a body size of 19 to 26 centimeters and a weight of approx. 140 to 200 g, with the largest specimens occurring in the Andes . It occurs within its area of ​​distribution in a strong color variance . In southern South America, Florida and Haiti, for example, the animals are dark to chocolate brown and brightly spotted and banded with white. In the semi-deserts, for example in the Brazilian interior, the animals are sandy yellow and in forest areas are often pale brown with orange spots.

Way of life

The rabbit owl lives as a ground dweller mainly in semi-deserts and steppe areas. It lives in burrows in the ground that are either mammalian or dug themselves. The living cave extends up to one meter below the ground and can represent a winding corridor up to three meters long. The species forms loose colonies of a maximum of 12 breeding pairs. The two to eleven eggs are placed in the brood chamber, which has been roughly padded beforehand. The breeding season lasts about four weeks, during which both partners breed alternately.

The owl is mainly crepuscular, but also hunts during the day and at night. The animals eat large beetles and other insects as well as small mammals , sometimes frogs and smaller birds . It has been observed that the owl has developed a particular strategy for hunting dung beetles . The owls lure the beetles by collecting manure from mammals and laying it out in front of their nests.

If the owl is startled, it emits a warning call, with a hissing and rattling similar to the threatening sound of a rattlesnake .

In the vicinity of the ground caves, in the brood chamber passage and even around the nest, which is deeply under construction, the owl spreads the droppings of other animals. During the strenuous breeding season, this attracts many insects to the nest, which the owl uses to cover its protein needs by breeding .


The first description of the rabbit owl came from Juan Ignacio Molina in 1782. Due to the differences in lifestyle and anatomy, it was considered the only species of the genus Speotyto until a few years ago .


Eighteen subspecies have been described, which differ mainly in their coloration:

A fossil named Athene cunicularia providentiae from the Bahamas or the West Indies appears to be a questionable extinct species. It is probably a subspecies A. c. floridana .


The IUCN currently classifies the owl population as not endangered ( least concern ). In some regions of its range, however, there are severe population declines. Between 1966 and 2000 the breeding population in the USA decreased by an average of 1.2 percent annually. One of the causes of this population development is the decline in the prairie dog population . In the Great Plains in particular , rabbit owls very often use abandoned prairie dog burrows on the edge of prairie dog colonies, where they were exposed to somewhat less pressure from predators.


  • John A. Burton (ed.): Owls of the world - development - physique - way of life. Neumann-Neudamm Verlag Melsungen, 1986, ISBN 3-7888-0495-5
  • Juan Ignacio Molina: Saggio sulla storia naturale del Chili . Nella Stamperia di S. Tommaso d'Aquino, Bologna 1782 ( bibdigital.rjb.csic.es ).
  • Hans Hermann Carl Ludwig von Berlepsch, Jan Sztolcman: Résultats des recherches ornithologiques faites au Pérou par M. Jean Kalinowski . In: Proceedings of the General Meetings for Scientific Business of the Zoological Society of London for the Year 1892 . 1892, p. 371-410 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Hans Hermann Carl Ludwig von Berlepsch, Jan Sztolcman, John Gerrard Keulemans : On the Ornithological Research of M. Jean Kalinowski in Central Peru . In: Proceedings of the General Meetings for Scientific Business of the Zoological Society of London for the Year 1902 . tape 2 , 1902, pp. 18-60 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte: American Ornithology; or the Natural History of Birds inhabiting the United States, not given by Wilson . Carey, Lea & Carey, Philadelphia 1825 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Claës Christian Olrog: Sobre una subespecie de Athene cunicularia de Argentina (Aves, Strigidae) . In: Neotropica . tape 22 , no. 68 , 1976, p. 107-108 .
  • Witmer Stone: On a collection of birds from the vicinity of Bogota, with a review of the South American species of Speotypoand Troglodytes . In: Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia . tape 51 , 1899, pp. 302-313 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Witmer Stone: A New Burrowing Owl from Colombia . In: The Auk . tape 39 , no. 1 , 1922, pp. 84 (English, sora.unm.edu [PDF; 52 kB ]).
  • Coenraad Jacob Temminck: Nouveau recueil de planches coloriées d'oiseaux: pour servir de suite et de complément aux planches enluminées de Buffon (plate 14662 & text) . tape 2 , delivery 25. Legras Imbert et Comp., Strasbourg 1822 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Charles Haskins Townsend: Scientific results of explorations by the US Fish Commission steamer Albatross. No. XIV..Birds from the coasts of western North America and adjacent islands, collected in 1888-'89, with descriptions of new species . In: Proceedings of the United States National Museum. tape 13 , 1890, p. 131-142 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Charles Barney Cory: Catalog of the Birds of Americas . In: Field Museum Natural History Publications (=  Zoological Series ). tape 13 , no. 197 , 1918 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Robert Ridgway: Discovery of a Burrowing Owl in Florida . In: The American sportsman . tape 4 , no. 14 , 1874, p. 216-217 .
  • Robert Ridgway: A history of North American birds . Little Brown, Boston 1874 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Alexander Wetmore, Bradshaw Hall Swales: The birds of Haiti and the Dominican Republic . In: Bulletin - United States National Museum. No. 155 , 1931, pp. 1-483 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • George Newbold Lawrence: Catalog of the Birds of Antigua and Bermuda from Collections made for the Smithonian Institution, by Mr. Fred A. Ober, with his observations . In: Proceedings of the United States National Museum . tape 1 , 1878, p. 232-242 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Hans von Boetticher: A new breed of the rabbit owl Speotyto cunicularia (Mol) . In: Senckenbergiana Biologica . tape 11 , no. 5/6 , 1878, p. 286-392 .
  • Charles Wallace Richmond in Wirt Robinson: An annotated list of birds observed on the Island of Margarita, and at Guanta and Laguayra, Venezuela . In: Proceedings of the United States National Museum. tape 18 , 1896, p. 649-685 ( biodiversitylibrary.org ).
  • Orlando Hilario Garrido Calleja: Una nueva subespecie del Sijú de Sabana Speotyto cunicularia para Cuba . In: Cotinga . tape 15 , 2001, p. 75-78 ( neotropicalbirdclub.org [PDF]).
  • Leon Hugh Kelso: Additional Races of American Owls . In: Biological leaflet . No. 11 , 1939, pp. 1–2 ( nrm.se [PDF]).

Web links

Commons : Owl  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. netzeitung.de Owls bait beetles ( Memento from September 13, 2004 in the Internet Archive )
  2. ^ IOC World Bird List Owls
  3. ^ Juan Ignacio Molina (1782), p. 263.
  4. ^ Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte (1825), p. 72 Fußnore.
  5. ^ Charles Haskins Townsend (1890), p. 133.
  6. ^ Robert Ridgway (1874), pp. 216-217.
  7. Orlando Hilario Garrido Calleja (2001), pp. 75-78.
  8. Alexander Wetmore et al. a. (1931), p. 239.
  9. George Newbold Lawrence (1878), p. 234.
  10. ^ Robert Ridgway (1874), p. 90.
  11. ^ Charles Wallace Richmond (1896), p. 663.
  12. ^ Charles Barney Cory (1918), p. 40.
  13. ^ Witmer Stone (1922), p. 84.
  14. ^ Witmer Stone (1899), p. 303.
  15. Hans von Boetticher (1929), p. 391.
  16. ^ Hans Hermann Carl Ludwig von Berlepsch a. a. (1892), p. 388.
  17. ^ Hans Hermann Carl Ludwig von Berlepsch a. a. (1902), p. 41.
  18. ^ Leon Hugh Kelso (1939), pp. 1-2.
  19. ^ Coenraad Jacob Temminck (1822), plate 146 & text.
  20. Claës Christian Olrog (1976), pp. 107-108.
  21. ^ IUCN on the owl rabbit, accessed on May 19, 2013
  22. ^ Paul A. Johnsgard: Great Wildlife of the Great Plains . University Press of Kansas, 2003, ISBN 0-7006-1224-6 , p. 74