Monday, December 17, 2018

Join the Starter Owl Burrow Program


In 2017, Owl Watch volunteers counted 169 pairs of owls nesting in Marco Island. Of those pairs, 116 successfully raised 317 chicks.

In 2017, Owl Watch volunteers counted 169 pairs of owls nesting in Marco Island. Of those pairs, 116 successfully raised 317 chicks.

Habitat loss is the biggest threat to the burrowing owls in Marco Island. As Marco Island is getting more and more built-out, there will be less and less vacant lots for burrowing owls to call home. Audubon of Western Everglades (AWE), along with its Owl Watch Program, encourages residents to participate in its Starter Burrow Program. Through their participation, residents become active in the conservation and protection of the burrowing owls of Marco Island.

Burrowing owls are not able to dig through thick landscape grass, so most lawns on Marco Island are inaccessible to nesting. Burrowing owls can be encouraged to move to your property by installing a starter burrow. Preferably, starter burrows are dug in an open lawn, safe from curious pets and away from trees, shrubs, and buildings. Starter burrows are easy to integrate into a residential landscape, and can be incorporated into some suitable gardens.

Burrowing owls like a bit of vegetation around their burrow but will abandon a burrow with overgrown grass and weeds.

Burrowing owls like a bit of vegetation around their burrow but will abandon a burrow with overgrown grass and weeds.

Volunteer monitors with AWE’s Owl Watch Program counted 169 pairs of owls nesting in Marco Island in 2017. Of those pairs, 116 successfully raised 317 chicks.

Join the Starter Burrow Program by installing a starter burrow in your residential landscape. Photos by Jean Hall

Join the Starter Burrow Program by installing a starter burrow in your residential landscape. Photos by Jean Hall

Some of these owls lost their burrows in flooding from Hurricane Irma and are looking for new homes. Young owls hatched last season are also looking to “move out” and dig new burrows, and fall is an ideal time to find them new homes before the start of the nesting season, which runs from February to July. Installing a starter burrow on your property can provide a pair of owls with a safe new home to raise their family next year.

Brad Cornell of AWE wants everybody to know that both owls and landowners can coexist on Marco Island. Having burrowing owls in your neighborhood or as part of your landscape shouldn’t be feared, but should be viewed as an amazing asset to the city. In addition to being a major draw for birdwatchers and tourists, burrowing owls provide a service to residents by eating rodents, lizards and insects, including roaches and mole crickets.

Karol Tenace, assistant manager for the AWE Owl Watch Program, is optimistic for the future of burrowing owls in Marco Island. In exchange for providing owls with a place to nest, homeowners get to enjoy endless hours of joy as they observe these charismatic raptors and their chicks up close.

Cape Coral, Florida has a very successful starter burrow program that is well received by its residents. Marco Islanders, be part of an amazing experience.

To add a starter burrow to your landscape, send an email of interest to: owlwatchmarco@gmail.com. Staff from AWE’s Owl Watch Program will schedule a visit to assess the best location for your starter burrow.

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