Photos by Bruce Taubert
Burrowing Owl Management
The western species of burrowing owl is currently protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a National Bird of Conservation Concern. It is listed as threatened in Mexico, and endangered in Canada. Burrowing owl populations are decreasing in size due to loss of nesting habitat from increasing human development. In an effort to counteract this habitat loss, land and wildlife managers are constructing artificial burrows and relocating displaced burrowing owls into protected habitat. However, this effort can be challenging due to the variability in quality of available habitat. The extensive loss of nesting habitat in the Phoenix and Tucson areas has also created an unfulfilled demand for protected nesting habitat suitable for relocation.
To help address concerns for burrowing owls in Arizona, federal, state, and local agencies, in addition to private organizations, universities, and rehabilitators have formed the Arizona Burrowing Owl Working Group. One of the first tasks completed by the group was the creation of guidance documents for city and county planners, and private developers. These documents help project planners address the burrowing owl on lands that will be developed. They are not permitting requirements, nor does completion of the recommended surveys and conservation measures serve as mitigation measures from the regulatory authorities under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or Arizona Revised Statute Title 17. They are a management tool to help project planners reduce violations under federal and state regulations .
The Arizona Burrowing Owl Working Group is also working to identify habitat parameters required by the species, which will be used to prescribe habitat modifications to artificial burrow areas. In addition, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has been engaged in a variety of research efforts designed to inform a data-driven approach to managing burrowing owl populations. Research has examined:
Additional Burrowing Owl Resources