The Souris River Watershed District received $10,000 for their Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program earlier this spring from the Brandon Area Community Foundation (BACF).

The program runs completely on public and private funding and some public general donations. "And without the support of private donors like the BACF our program wouldn't be able to run so it's very important and we were very excited to receive that funding," shares Recovery Program Executive Director, Alex Froese. "We actually received $10,000 last year as well so it's really great they supported us again!"

Froese says the funding goes towards several field activities in southwestern Manitoba to help Burrowing Owls on the landscape as well as continuing their education programming.  She says this funding specifically will go towards habitat improvements. 

"So, that is where we're working with cattle farmers in particular to install artificial nest burrows for Burrowing Owls because they are the only North American species of owl that nests in the ground. And these artificial nest burrows create protected homes for burrowing owls coming back into the Canadian Prairies every year."

"And some of the money goes towards our education programming," she adds. "So, we travel around southern Manitoba going to different schools and community events to talk about Burrowing Owls and grassland conservation."

The recovery program is working, and landowners are seeing the return of Burrowing Owls. They're also reporting that the owls are using the artificial nest burrows which provides greater protection for their owlets. However, the population is still quite low, and we've got a long way to go to bring the population back up to what it once was.  The Burrowing Owl was once a common summer resident of the Canadian prairies. However, since 1987, the Burrowing Owl population has declined over 96%. In our province, the population has declined from over 100 pairs in the early 1980's to under 10 pairs in 2012.

"Burrowing Owls are conservation-dependent," notes Froese,' so they absolutely need help here in Manitoba and Canada.  This isn't just a Manitoba-specific struggle for Burrowing Owls. They are endangered throughout Canada."

What is causing the decline?

The owl's decline has been attributed to changes in the prairie landscape. Over 75% of our native grassland has been cultivated and 40% of our wetlands have been lost. The remaining grassland areas in Manitoba and Canada are often heavily fragmented which has reduced available suitable habitat for Burrowing Owls to nest.

Please listen to more with Alex Froese below!

Some fun facts about Burrowing Owls from their website:

  • Burrowing Owls are the only North American owl that nests in the ground.
  • Burrowing Owls are unable to dig their own burrows and rely on digging animals like badgers, foxes, ground squirrels and pocket gophers to do so for them. They are unable to nest without a burrow.
  • A one-day-old Burrowing Owl weighs 8-9 grams. Within 5 weeks their weight increases 16-17 times that to 150g-170g. Young fledge and are independent from their parents at 6 weeks of age.
  • A single Burrowing Owl family can eat 1,800 rodents and 7,000 insects during a summer! They also eat things like frogs, small birds and salamanders.
  • Males make a "Coo-Coo" call to attract a mate in the early breeding season and also to other males when protecting their territory.
  • Burrowing Owls hunt both day and night (Diurnal hunter).
  • A Burrowing Owl nest can have up to a dozen eggs!
  • Burrowing Owls migrate from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico every fall.

For more information, please visit the Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program HERE!

Also do visit: 

Facebook is "Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program"

Instagram is @kokoandbindi

For donation information click HERE!

(All photos submitted by Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program)