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Their Bags are Packed, Young Burrowing Owls are Moving Out!

 

Regina, SK – August 3rd, 2022 - The time has come for young Burrowing Owls to jump into the real world. Early August marks the beginning of a new life stage for juvenile Burrowing Owls as they say goodbye to mom and dad’s grocery shopping and home cooking, and begin leaving the nest to forage for themselves. During this transition period, the young owls are practicing their hunting and flying skills and continually gaining more independence. While this time of year is great for spotting Burrowing Owls, it is a dangerous season for the ever-learning young Burrowing Owls. Roadside foraging is a common activity for the young owls, introducing the danger of vehicles. “At dusk the road surface tends to be warmer than surrounding grasslands, attracting many small insects and rodents,” explains Kaytlyn Burrows, coordinator of Operation Burrowing Owl, “As a result young owls are also attracted to the road and ditch when they begin searching for prey.” 

Each year, young foraging Burrowing Owls are injured or killed by vehicles along roadsides. The steady decline of the Burrowing Owl population has made the survival of each and every juvenile owl critical for the persistence and growth of the population. Luckily, those of us driving in rural Saskatchewan can play our individual parts in conserving the Burrowing Owl species. Kaytlyn Burrows suggests that “when motorists are driving in rural areas, particularly nearby pasture land, it’s important that they take a few extra minutes and slow down. This will reduce the risk of owl-vehicle collisions”. Slowing down will also increase your chances of spotting this endangered bird!

Burrowing Owls tend to be found nesting in well-grazed native or tame prairie. Their nest itself is recycled from a burrow dug by burrowing mammals such as badgers or ground squirrels (gophers). The surrounding short vegetation allows for long sight lines from the burrow so that they can easily spot nearby predators. If you are lucky enough to spot a Burrowing Owl, you might see it standing at its burrow entrance, on a fence post, or foraging in a ditch. 

Burrowing Owls are quite small! They stand only 9 inches tall with featherless legs, they can be compared to a pop can on stilts. Additionally, they’ve got bushy white ‘eyebrows’, and their feathers are a mottled brown and white. 

Nature Saskatchewan has been involved with the protection and conservation of the Burrowing Owl for 35 years, relying on the help of landowners, land managers, and the public. Operation Burrowing Owl partners with stewards across southern and central Saskatchewan, and uses voluntary agreements in an effort to conserve the rapidly disappearing habitat required by the owls, as well as to monitor the Saskatchewan population. The program works alongside steward practices, and the land continues to be used in a way that benefits the steward. “If you see a Burrowing Owl, please give us a call on our toll-free Hoot Line, at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email obo@naturesask.ca,” Burrows mentions. “You will be helping to monitor the population and aid with conservation efforts.” Information provided is never shared without permission.

 

For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:

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

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

 

 

Photo credit: Tammy Thomas

 

 

 

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