The armadillos usually inhabit open areas and seem best adapted to semi-desert conditions. They are powerful diggers and live in burrows. The burrows of armadillos are usually on sloping sand dunes and are several meters long and more than a meter deep. Activity is largely nocturnal in summer, to avoid the desert heat, and diurnal in winter. When threatened, they often emit a loud squeal. If unable to find a hole, they try to burrow into the ground. If overtaken while running, or if they do not have a chance to burrow, they draw in their feet so that the edges of their armor are in contact with the ground, and thus protect themselves against canid and avian predators. They anchor themselves in their burrows by spreading their feet and bending their bodies so that the free hind edges of the bands grasp the walls of the burrow. They regularly burrow under animal carcasses to obtain maggots and other insects and sometimes burrow into the carcasses.
They have been observed to kill small snakes by throwing themselves upon the snakes and cutting them with the edges of the shell. Under certain conditions they obtain grubs and insects from a few centimeters below the surface of the ground by the unusual method of forcing a hole in the ground with the head and then turning the body in a circle so that a conical hole is formed without any digging. During the summer they feed mostly on insects but also feed on a number of rodents, lizards and other small vertebrates. They rely heavily on plant material, especially in the winter, when over half of their diet consists of vegetation. The armadillos are powerful diggers and live in burrows.