BURROWING OWL - Athene cunicularia
STATUS - ENDANGERED (Canada)
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
- Habitat loss
What you lookin' at?
What's for lunch?
Burrowing owls are a natural pest control. They eat mice and grasshoppers. One nest of owls can eat 1000 rodents and even more insects in a year!!
Baby burrowing owls
Biologists have discovered that as many as 45% of all juvenile owls that survive long enough to fledge may be killed before they migrate south for the first time.
What's for lunch?
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.
Critical habitat for the burrowing owl is also considered prime agricultural land.
The burrowing owl and the prairie dog have a symbiotic relationship.
Excuse me...may I please use your burrow?
NORTH AMERICAN RANGE
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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- A new study is using satellite transmitters to track migration to get a better understanding of patterns.
Grasslands National Park provides habitat protection for the endangered burrowing owl.
OBO was launched in 1987 to protect Burrowing Owl habitat from cultivation, monitor population changes, and increase awareness of the owl.
Take a closer look at this PDF which details what is being done to help the Burrowing Owl recover.
Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre
Grasslands National Park - Endangered Species
Operation Burrowing Owl
Hinterland Who's Who