Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC

Their World

Habitat

Short grass prairie is key hunting habitat for the owls

Burrowing owls favour open semi-arid grasslands, rangeland, and agricultural lands. They can also inhabit grass, forb, and shrub stages of pinyon and ponderosa pine habitats, commonly perching on fence posts or on top of mounds outside the burrow. are biologically rich ecosystems that provide for the food and shelter for the birds. They are home to many species including burrowing mammals such as marmots, badgers, skunks and ground squirrels. The abandoned burrows created by these animals are ideal homes for the owls to re-occupy for nesting, roosting and raising their young. Besides the open spaces, burrowing owls need underground shelter.

Burrowing owls have been reported to nest in loose colonies. Such groupings may be a response to a local abundance of burrows and food, or an adaptation for mutual defence. Colony members can alert each other to the approach of predators and join in driving them off. During the nesting season, adult males forage over a home range of 2 to 3 square kilometres. Ranges of neighbouring males may overlap considerably. A small area around the nest burrow is aggressively defended against intrusions by other burrowing owls and predators.

Riparian grasslands important for prey species

In BC, most burrowing owls live in low to mid elevation grasslands, gently undulating short grass prairie, with few trees, access to water. The large open areas are also home to rodents and insects which are their main food supply. Most of these areas occur in privately held rangelands. Private landowners in BC have been a key part of the program. Ranchlands are extremely important habitat for the owls and they coexist well with domestic livestock interests. Burrowing owls have also been found in several unusual locations in BC. These have ranged from agricultural croplands, golf courses, roadsides, airports, dump sites and urban neighbourhoods. The owls have usually established in makeshift shelter, such as abandoned pipe, crevices, foundation footings and even building overhangs. They have also been discovered in non-grassland areas, occasionally Vancouver Island (Campbell River and even Port Hardy) and the Fraser Delta. Most of these discoveries have been during the fall migration period.

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