One of the coolest things about the Burrowing Owl is that they collect poop. Let me explain.

When the nesting process starts, usually in February, and when there are eggs in the burrow and small chicks, the adult Burrowing Owl scours the neighborhood for “trash” to put in front of the burrow. They find tissue paper, tube socks, hamburger wrappers, stuffed toys, cigarette butts, donuts and even some kids homework and all sorts of treasures. They then line the entrance to the burrow with all the treasures they find.

They also collect animal feces, mostly from dogs,  and also line the front of the burrow entrance with this newly found poop. There are several theories as to why they do this. One is that the  smell hides the scent of the eggs. Another theory is that the poop contains small insects, such as dung beetles which the adults use to feed the young. It is kind of like a quick McDonald’s ® meal for the kids. This way the adults don’t have to leave the young for long times when they hunt for food. It can also serve as a training ground for the young chicks.  As they are taught to hunt, they can start by catching the insects that gather at the poop, and not have to leave the safety of the burrow.

When the juveniles are out of the burrow at about 3 weeks of age, all the “trash” and poop is cleaned up and the burrow entrance is neat as a pin.

Photo by Pascha Donaldson
Highly decorated burrow. Photo by Pascha Donaldson
Animal feces at a burrow