The Burrowing Owl

TheBurrowing Owl

IntroductionThe burrowingowls are a species of birds that lives in small burrows made by othermammals such as the prairie dogs and squirrels. One of theirdistinctive characteristics is their long legs and the brown spottedfeathers. Their eyes are bright yellow while their “eyebrows”are normally white. Since they are among the smallest birds in theAthenecuniculariafamily, their primary diets include small mammals such as mice andmoles during early summer and late spring. At other times, theysurvive by eating beetles and grasshoppers among other insects.However, the birds may feed on reptiles, amphibians and other birdstoo. Their population extends from North America in Canada, USA andto South America. However, they are endangered species since theirnumbers is decreasing steadily. Currently, the breeding pairs areless than 10,000. The primary cause of the drastic decrease in thepopulation of the birds is habitat loss and intensive controlprograms targeting the prairie dogs. In many cases, inbreeding is acommon cause of extinction, but in the case of burrowing owls, itdoes not contribute towards their declining population (Giannetta,2011).Characteristics of the burrowing OwlThe burrowingOwl is a small bird with long legs and bright eyes. There are twodifferent species of the burrowing Owl with either gray or yellowbeaks. They do not have ear tufts and their facial disks areflattened. The key characteristic of the burrowing Owl is their whiteeyebrows and chin patch. When agitated, or when bobbing their heads,the Owls expand and stretch to display the eyebrows and the chin. Theadult burrowing Owls have brown heads their wings have a whitespotting. There are Owls species with a white chest and abdomen thatcontains a barring or a white spotting (Burrowingowl facts,n.d). Young Burrowing OwlsYoung owlshave a similar appearance apart from the white spots above and thebrown barring that occurs below. A buff bar that appears on the upperwing characterizes juvenile owls. Their breasts are either white orbuff colored. However, Gray longer legs compared to those of otherowls describe burrowing owls of any age. The male burrowing owls areof a similar size and appearance to the females. The owls alsodisplay minimal dimorphism. However, the females tend to be heavierwhile the males are characterized by longer and linear measurementssuch as in the tail and wing length (Burrowingowl fact sheet,n.d). AdultBurrowing OwlsAdult malesare light in color compared to the females. The males spend more timeoutside the burrow during the day and consequently, the sun bleachestheir feathers. The burrowing owl is 28 centimeters long with a spanof 50- 61 centimeters on the wings. The average weight of the owl isbetween 135 and 250 grams. It is slightly larger than the Americanrobin (Speciesspotlight,n.d). Special nature of the burrowing OwlThe bird is aspecial from regular owls since it is active during the day althoughit avoids the mid-day sun heat. Also, it has developed long legssince it lives in open grasslands as opposed to the forest. Theadaptation enables it to fly as well as sprint when hunting. The owl,similar to other family species, hunts during the night- from dusk todawn (Burrowing owl, 2006). During thenight, the burrowing owl uses their hearing and night vision as anadvantage to hunt. It builds nests and roosts in burrows similar tothe ones created by prairie dogs. It lives in open areas with littlevegetation such as rangelands, grasslands, deserts as well asagricultural areas. It is a common animal in the open landscapes ofSouth and North America (Burrowing owl, 2006). Conservation and endangered status of theburrowing owlIn Canada,the burrowing owl has been rendered as an endangered species.Besides, it has been publicly acknowledged that the owl is endangeredin Mexico. In Florida, the burrowing owl belongs to the rare speciesas well as in most of the western part of the United States ofAmerica. In Colorado, the Owl remains a threatened species (Speciesspotlight,n.d).Factors contributing to the extinction ofBurrowing OwlsThe decliningpopulation of the burrowing owl has been attributed to a number offactors. In North America, the birds face various problems such asthe loss of habitat caused by the control of prairie dogs. The owlsinhabit anthropogenic landscapes like airport grasslands or the areassurrounding golf courses. Moreover, the birds are known to takeadvantage of sites with artificial nests (Burrowingowl facts,n.d). Additionalproblems include widespread settlements whereby people disturb theowls nesting places. The birds have many enemies such as foxes,snakes, owls, skunks, badgers, weasels, cats and dogs that eat youngowls and the eggs. Besides, the owls are killed on the highways.Pesticides used in the control of pests affects and harms the owlstherefore reduce their chances of survival. In addition, heavy rainsflood the burrows of the owls and causes them to either relocated andcontribute to the decline in their population (Burrowingowl fact sheet,n.d).The declining population of the Burrowing OwlsThestatistics conducted on the bird indicate a declining populationsince the year 1988. A population count in 1998 revealed that therewere only four pairs of the bird in British Columbia. In Alberta, thepopulation count identified 100 burrowing owls while in Saskatchewanthere were 1,500 birds and only 28 in Manitoba. The count alsorevealed that out of the designated population, none was nesting, 37pairs were identified to be nesting in Alberta while only one pairwas nesting in Manitoba. In Saskatchewan, 88 pairs were identified tobe nesting. The bird was listed as an endangered species inSaskatchewan in the year 1999. Currently, the burrowing Owl iscommonly spread in the open regions of majority countries in theneurotropic regions (Speciesspotlight,n.d).In the year2008, a report was released by Bird species at risk. The reportindicated that an estimated 500- 800 burrowing owls were nesting inCanada with half of the population located in Saskatchewan. Thereport noted that the population of the owls in Saskatchewan was onthe decline (Burrowingowl fact sheet,n.d). Thepopulation of the birds has decreased by 94% since 1980’s. In theyear 2004, there were only 477 pairs nesting in Saskatchewangrassland national park. The report noted that in the year 2008, thepopulation of the nesting burrowing owls had declined to only 20pairs. Besides, it was noted that the birds had completelydisappeared from British Colombia and in Manitoba. In the year 2010,a study operation- operation-borrowing owl was conducted in BritishColumbia. The operation revealed that there were only 58 pairs ofOwls. The report confirmed that there was an additional decline of29% from the 82 pairs that had been reported by the researchconducted in the year 2009 (Burrowingowl facts,n.d).According toa report by British Colombia, in the year 2010, 23 burrowing owlsreturned to British Columbia from migration. The number was thelargest observed since the commencement of a program to reintroducethe burrowing owls in British Columbia (Speciesspotlight,n.d).ConclusionHumanintervention is required to avoid the extinction of the burrowingowl. The owls are beneficial to the environment and farmers sincethey eat insects and pests. People can create an intervention programin various ways. First, people should report any borrowing sitescreated by the owls ((Burrowing owl, 2006). Second,people should be educated about the status of the owls and taught toleave the burrowing sites alone to enable nesting. Internationalauthorities should create land specifically for nesting of theburrowing owl. People can also intervene by creating artificialburrows for the owls to live. It is also imperative to build afacility that raises the owls in captivity. Such a facility can helpincrease the survival chances of the Owls and further increase thepopulation (Giannetta, 2001).References

Burrowingowl fact sheet, (n.d). Defendersof wildlife. Web.Retrieved from http://www.defenders.org/burrowing-owl/basic-facts

Burrowing owlfacts, (n.d). BurrowingOwl Conservation Network.Retrieved fromhttp://burrowingowlconservation.org/burrowing_owl_facts/

Burrowingowl, (2006). Species atRisk Public Registry.Web. Retrieved fromhttp://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=20

Giannetta, J.(2011).Burrowing owl. Retrieved fromhttp://www.aitc.sk.ca/saskschools/animals/burowl1.html

Speciesspotlight: Burrowing owl. NatureCanada. Web.Retrievedfromhttp://naturecanada.ca/what-we-do/naturevoice/endangered-species/know-our-species/burrowing-owl/