It is distributed from the western and southern United States to Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Guyana, northern and western Colombia, western and central Ecuador, to southern Chile and Argentina; southern Brazil and is also found on several Caribbean islands.
It is a small bird with unusually long, plumed legs. There is no sexual dimorphism, male and female are practically identical.
A diurnal species, it is active all day, but concentrates its hunting activity around dawn and dusk. They mainly feed on arthropods such as beetles, spiders, scorpions and other insects; small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
The burrowing owlet breeds annually and is a monogamous species. It nests in abandoned burrows of other species, such as the prairie dog, the chamber of which is usually 1m deep. Clutch size is 3-11 eggs, which will hatch 28-30 days after laying.