Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Environmental Science and Policy

Major Professor

Melissa M. Grigione, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Ronald J. Sarno, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gordon A. Fox, Ph.D.


Athene cunicularia floridana, Species of special concern, Home range, Avian ecology, Telemetry


The first observations of Florida burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia floridana) occurred in the 19th century on historical dry prairie habitat in south central Florida. These early observations documented the ecology of burrowing owls in rural environments. Since then the vast majority of research on this subspecies has been undertaken in suburban and urban environments during the breeding period. The research undertaken on burrowing owls in suburban and urban environments includes determining natal dispersal distance, assessing female fecundity, mate fidelity, territory fidelity, date of juvenile and adult dispersal from breeding habitat, date of clutch initiation, nesting success, density of breeding pairs, causes of mortality, prey preference, and minimum annual survival of fledglings, juveniles, and adults. Very little research has been undertaken on burrowing owls in rural environments.

The purpose of this thesis was to elucidate the behavior and ecology of burrowing owls in a rural environment. The topics researched in this thesis include home range in breeding habitat, dispersal distance to post-breeding habitat, location of post-breeding habitat, behavior during the breeding period, diet of rural versus urban owls, and the evaluation of three methods to trap burrowing owls.

The results of this thesis indicate that, during the daytime, juvenile burrowing owls utilized habitat very close to the main and satellite burrows during the breeding period. At night juvenile owls foraged in an extensive saw palmetto patch surrounding the breeding habitat. The predominant prey of both rural and urban burrowing owls during the breeding period was insects. Dispersal of juvenile burrowing owls from breeding habitat coincided with the flooding of the breeding habitat during the rainy season.