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Jun
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There’s No Place Like Home: Burrowing Owls Return to Saskatchewan

Regina, SK – June 1, 2022 – Burrowing Owls have completed their long journey back to the Saskatchewan prairies after overwintering in Texas and Mexico. Spring is underway and so is the Burrowing Owl’s breeding season! The Burrowing Owls have paired up and right now the female owls are incubating the eggs (average 6-12), while the males are busy providing food for the female and can be seen standing next to the burrow or on nearby fence posts.

Despite being called Burrowing Owls, they actually do not dig their own burrows! These owls have to rely on burrows created by badgers, ground squirrels (gophers) and other burrowing mammals. While it’s important to minimize disturbances near a Burrowing Owl nest, Burrowing Owls actually coexist very well with cattle and other grazers because the shorter grass on a grazed pasture allows them to sight predators more efficiently. They also use the manure to line their burrows to absorb moisture, regulate temperature, attract insects for food and hide their scent from predators. Burrowing Owls will often nest in ditches and cultivated lands as well.

If you find Burrowing Owls in your pasture, congratulations! Not only are you providing important habitat for an iconic prairie species, these owls also provide many advantages including free pest control. According to Nature Saskatchewan’s Habitat Stewardship Coordinator, Kaytlyn Burrows, “Burrowing Owls eat huge numbers of insects, mice, voles and grasshoppers. Over the course of a summer, one owl family can consume up to 1800 rodents and 7000 insects!”

These one-of-a-kind owls can be identified by their small size, they are only about 9 inches tall, and light and dark brown mottled plumage with white spots. They have round heads with large yellow eyes and white ‘eyebrows’. Their long featherless legs give them the appearance of walking on stilts. Burrowing owls are one of the smallest owls in Canada and the only species of owl that lives underground!

Nature Saskatchewan’s voluntary stewardship program, Operation Burrowing Owl, works with almost 350 land stewards to conserve Burrowing Owl habitat and monitor population numbers in Saskatchewan. Operation Burrowing Owl records sightings to help determine the population trend and distribution of the Burrowing Owl throughout the province. This information can then be used towards efforts to conserve and restore the habitat and population of these charismatic birds.

“Without the voluntary efforts of land stewards and the general public, recovery of this unique prairie owl would not be possible” says Burrows. She encourages the public to “get out there this summer and explore, you never know what you will find.” If you are lucky enough to spot a Burrowing Owl, please give a “hoot” by calling Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free HOOT Line, 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email obo@naturesask.ca. “When you report a sighting you are playing a very important role in Burrowing Owl recovery. Every sighting is critical!” says Burrows. Private information is never shared without permission.

 

For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:

 

Kaytlyn Burrows (306) 780-9833, email obo@naturesask.ca
Habitat Stewardship Coordinator

Rebecca Magnus, (306) 780-9270, email rmagnus@naturesask.ca        
Species at Risk Manager

 

Photo credit: Boyd Coburn

 

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