Aruban Burrowing Owl – Detail Page

English Name: Aruban Burrowing Owl

Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia arubensis

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Strigiformes

Family: Strigidae (True owls)

Genus: Athene (Burrowing owls)

Other Names: Shoko, Choco. (Papiamentu)


Conservation Status: 

  • IUCN Red List: not yet assessed. The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is classified as Least Concern.
  • CITES: listed in CITES Appendix II.
  • SPAW: not listed.

Island Status:

  • Population has declined significantly, locally endangered.


The subspecies Aruban Burrowing Owl has a small body -about 20 cm (~7.9″) in length- with long legs and a flat facial disc typical of the owl family. The body is buffy-colored with the upper-parts being brown with white spots. Underparts are light brown to white with some brown spotting and barring. It is much paler than sub-species on the continent.

Distinct features: 1) long legs; 2) large, yellow eyes; 3) lacks ear tufts and 4) prominent white eyebrows.

Life History

The Aruban Burrowing Owl feeds on insects and rodents which it typically hunts for from the ground, walking, hopping or running after it. It is known on occasion to locate prey from a high perch and to catch prey with its feet.

Much of the life history of this subspecies is still unknown. Burrowing owls typically lay three to six eggs that are incubated for 28 days and hatch after 42 days. It is unclear if this also goes for the Aruban Burrowing Owl. Staff of the Parke Nacional Arikok are currently monitoring the owl’s population within the protected area.

Habitat: They live in burrows on the ground in areas of cactus scrub and dry forest.

Distribution: It is an endemic sub-species of the burrowing owl that occurs only on Aruba.

Local Research and Conservation Efforts

While the Aruba burrowing owl is not currently protected on Aruba, many conservation efforts are underway to ensure that it does not go extinct. The Aruba Birdlife Conservation foundation has been at the heart of conservation efforts. The foundation campaigned declared 2012 to be the year of the Choco and for the Aruban Burrowing Owl to be nominated as Aruba’s National Bird. The island’s terrestrial protected area, Parke Nacional Arikok, is also an important refuge where the population can recover. Park staff are actively involved in conservation efforts.

Did You Know?

  • The Aruban Burrowing owl was made one of Aruba’s National Symbols in February 2012. It also appears on Aruba’s postal stamps and currency.
  • Burrowing owls get their common name from their unusual habit of nesting underground in already dug-out burrows, although they are known to occasionally dig out their own. When the breeding season is over, the owls continue to use their borrow to rest during the day.
  • The Choco’s population has greatly diminished in the last few decades and is now locally endangered, with estimates of less than 200 pairs remaining. Threats include overdevelopment and the invasive boa constrictor.

Related Pages:
Species in the Spotlight: Aruban Burrowing Owl