Are Burrowing Owls Rare?


Burrowing owls are not considered rare overall, but their populations have been declining in many areas primarily due to habitat loss

. The declines have been particularly sharp in Florida, the Dakotas, and coastal California. In Canada, the burrowing owl is listed as endangered, and it is considered a species of special concern in Mexico. In some areas, such as Minnesota, the burrowing owl is classified as a state endangered species. However, it is worth noting that conservation efforts have increased to help preserve their habitat, and their quirky expressions and behaviors have gained attention and support.

What Are The Main Factors Contributing To The Decline In Burrowing Owl Populations And Their Rarity?

The decline in burrowing owl populations and their rarity can be attributed to several factors, including:

  • Habitat loss: Burrowing owls require open grasslands and prairies with burrows for nesting and roosting.

    However, these habitats are being lost due to agriculture, construction and development activities, and the eradication of prairie dog colonies and other burrowing mammals.
  • Predation: Burrowing owl fledglings are particularly vulnerable to predation by mammals, large raptors, and snakes.
  • Inexperienced hunting: Young burrowing owls may also starve due to inexperience with hunting.
  • Decline of other burrowing animals: The local extirpation of other burrowing animals, such as prairie dogs and badgers, is also a major cause of the decline in western burrowing owl populations.

To address these threats to burrowing owl populations, conservation efforts are needed to protect and restore their habitats, as well as to reduce predation and provide education on hunting techniques for young owls.

Are There Any Conservation Efforts Or Initiatives In Place To Protect And Preserve Burrowing Owl Populations?

There are several conservation efforts and initiatives in place to protect and preserve burrowing owl populations:

  • The Burrowing Owl Conservation Network actively works to re-establish, preserve, and aid in the rehabilitation of burrowing owl colonies through various programs.
  • The Juvenile Overwintering Project, run by the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center, has proven to be a very successful conservation effort to reduce the mortality rates of young burrowing owls.
  • The burrowing owl is federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

    They are considered by the U.S.

    Fish and Wildlife Service to be a Species of Conservation Concern.
  • The Wilder Institute and partners are committed to restoring burrowing owl numbers using a conservation technique called head-starting to increase the survival rate of young owls.
  • Conservation legislation and habitat protection programs have helped stabilize burrowing owl populations, but climate change will likely reshape and impact their habitat.
  • The Oregon Conservation Strategy aims to investigate the value of artificial nesting structures for population expansion and/or reintroduction.

Overall, there are several conservation efforts and initiatives in place to protect and preserve burrowing owl populations, including habitat protection, rehabilitation, and reintroduction programs.

In Which Regions Or Habitats Are Burrowing Owls More Commonly Found, And Are There Any Specific Environmental Conditions That Favor Their Presence?

Burrowing owls are found in a variety of regions and habitats, including deserts, plains, fields, grasslands, prairies, farmland, airfields, and areas with minimal vegetation on the ground.

They prefer open, dry, sparsely vegetated land with available burrows, adequate food supply, and perches for horizontal visibility.

Burrowing owls are native to the deserts, plains, and fields of western North America, and the drier regions of Central and South America.

In California, they are found mostly in grasslands and along irrigation banks adjacent to intensive agriculture, in expansive grasslands, and in small patches of grassland surrounded by urban development.

Burrowing owls are diurnal, or most active during the day, and they are very energetic, bobbing up and down when they perch.

They are the only small owl species to perch on the ground and are so terrestrial that when disturbed, they will often run or flatten themselves against the ground, rather than fly away.

There are specific environmental conditions that favor the presence of burrowing owls.

They require suitable homes created by ground squirrels, prairie dogs, desert tortoises, or other burrowing animals, and they generally prefer burrows abandoned by ground squirrels and other small rodents.

Burrowing owls also need an adequate food supply, which includes small birds, reptiles, fish, rodents, and large insects.

They may hover above the ground in search of prey or hunt from a perch, and they might also catch insects in flight.

Burrowing owls are protected under the U.S.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and their primary threats include habitat loss and predation.

Helpful Resources