BURROWING OWL - Athene cunicularia

STATUS - ENDANGERED (Canada)

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FAST FACTS

RANGE IN CANADA: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba

HABITAT: Prairie Grassland

MIGRATION: Flies as far south as Texas and northern Mexico


STATUS: Endangered (Canada) SARA & COSEWIC


  • First species to be designated at threatened in Canada - 1979
  • Declined to endangered in 1995
  • Extirpated in BC and Manitoba
  • Fewer than 1000 pairs in Alberta & Saskatchewan


MAJOR THREATS

  • Habitat loss
  • Fragmentation
  • Pesticides

HABITAT LOSS

CRITICAL HABITAT - OPEN GRASSLAND Burrowing owls live in open grassland areas in western North America. In Canada they are currently restricted to the southern areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta. The are very well adapted to an environment dominated by grazing animals, burrowing animals, and an open, treeless habitat. However, since the early 1900's, much of the western Canadian prairie has been cultivated for agriculture, especially in Saskatchewan. Agricultural crops don't provide the habitat that burrowing owls require, so the owls are restricted to the small fragments of prairie that remain as cattle pastures.

CRITICAL HABITAT - BURROWS Burrowing owls also need burrows to nest in. Since they don't dig their own burrows, they must rely on animals like prairie dogs, badgers, and gophers to dig holes for them. Unfortunately, these animals are often seen as pests and are killed -- sometimes with poisons that could just as easily kill the owls.

NORTH AMERICAN RANGE

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PESTICIDES

Only 20% of former native prairie remains undisturbed. As a result burrowing owls are forced to occupy sites such as ditches, culverts, railway allowances, and farmyards. They are exposed to traffic, spraying, cultivation, and other dangers.


Spraying for grasshoppers with chemicals like Furadan 480F (Carbofuran)


  • significantly reduces breeding success
  • decreases the availability of prey
  • reduces the number of burrowing animals



How owls can intake pesticides:


  • spraying over the burrows kills owls and causes birth defects
  • granules of the pesticide are mistaken as food - can be ingested while preening their feathers
  • owls consume contaminated grasshoppers

WHAT IS BEING DONE?

CONSERVATION


  • In Saskatchewan private landowners participate in Operation Burrowing Owl, and are conserving over 148,000 acres of grassland habitat in pastures and other lands while using their land as they always have. Landowners annually report the number of owls on their land.
  • OBO provides financial support for habitat enhancement activities including seeding native pasture.
  • GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK provides protection of habitat for the Burrowing Owl.


EDUCATION


  • The Saskatchewan Burrowing Interpretive Centre was created to help promote the conservation of the owls and their prairie habitat through education, stewardship, and eco-tourism.
  • It is open to the public and is located on the Moose Jaw Exhibition Grounds


RECOVERY STRATEGY


  • A detailed recovery strategy for the burrowing owl has been developed as part of the SARA registry. Click the link below to learn more about it.


TRACKING MIGRATION

  • A new study is using satellite transmitters to track migration to get a better understanding of patterns.

GRASSLANDS NATIONAL PARK

Grasslands National Park provides habitat protection for the endangered burrowing owl.

OPERATION BURROWING OWL

OBO was launched in 1987 to protect Burrowing Owl habitat from cultivation, monitor population changes, and increase awareness of the owl.

SARA RECOVERY STRATEGY - BURROWING OWL

Take a closer look at this PDF which details what is being done to help the Burrowing Owl recover.

SOURCES

Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre

Grasslands National Park - Endangered Species

Operation Burrowing Owl

Hinterland Who's Who

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