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In 2003, the Burrowing Owl was placed on the Species at Risk list, reporting less than 1,000 pairs remaining in the wild.
Earlier this month, I had the rare opportunity to assist the Executive Manager of the BC Burrowing Owl Conservation Society with placing metal leg-bands on the Burrowing Owls in their care. It’s an interesting process that takes much care and attention, so I wanted to share my experience with you.
After retrieving the owlets from the nesting chamber a number of statistics are recorded for each bird: weight (at four weeks of age the average weight stands around 130 grams), overall condition of health, tarsus (length of lower leg from elbow to talon) and length of wing.
Two metal bands are attached one to each leg, the first is a US Fish and Wildlife band and the second band was developed by the Society. You will notice that the coloured band has large font, when looked at from a distance using binoculars or a telescope one can read the letters and numbers. This day we visited three different sites, banding a total of 17 birds.
Many birds are banded for identification purposes or as part of population and migration studies. Most wild birds found with bands will have been banded with what’s termed as a “federal band”. However, there are many other types of bands depending on the type of bird. If you have found a banded bird or just spotted a bird with a band while birdwatching, reporting that band number and location seen can give researchers important information. In some cases it may help an owner find a lost bird.
I’ve had the pleasure of following this particular group of owlets. On June 9th, during my first visit, we found their nest chamber contained 8 day old chicks. It’s evident that Burrowing Owls develop very rapidly, (seen in the photo below) at four weeks they are nearly the same size as their parents. When examining the wings there were many feathers still in sheaths.
Born in the South Okanagan grasslands the parents must bring a steady supply of insects and rodents to feed the ever growing brood until they reach six weeks.
In the first nest chamber we were able to also catch the mother, who as it turns out weighed less than all of the 8 chicks she was raising.
If you would like to learn more about Burrowing Owls and bird watching in the South Okanagan, join us on one of our interpretive nature hikes and birdwatching tours.
If you see a bird in the wild with a band, please take the time to report your encounter (and/or recovery) on line at www.reportband.gov
Recently I assisted the Executive Manager for the BC Burrowing Owl Conservation Society in the field checking up on three nest sites where captive as well as returning Burrowing Owls are breeding.
The Burrowing Owl has been absent from the landscape from the South Okanagan of British Columbia since 1970, mostly due to land disturbance and increased use of pesticides. Not only in British Columbia has there been a decline in populations but as well in the 3 prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In 1995 the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) declared the Burrowing Owl to be nationally endangered. Today it is estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 pairs remaining, making it one of Canada’s most endangered birds. …Read more
Yours truly had the opportunity to take part in this short film with a handful of locals from the South Okanagan-Similkameen to describe why they love the grasslands of the region and why these rare ecosystems need to be conserved.
For more information on CPAWS-BC’s efforts to create a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, visit www.cpawsbc.org/campaigns/south-okanagan-similkameen
It is mid-March, finally the grey cloudy winter skies in the South Okanagan are giving way to the bright clear skies that we are used to. I look forward to all of the changes just around the corner.
On Tuesday this week while out birding we had a great morning, there was no wind making for spectacular conditions to see waterfowl on the lakes. At Tuc-el nuit Lake in Oliver, our first stop of the day we had Lesser Scaup, Common and Hooded Mergansers, Pied Billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Mallard, American Widgeon, and American Coot. As we moved to the North end of the lake we immediately spotted a miniature Canada goose, which is a new species now called Cackling Goose. In July of 2004 the American Ornithologists Union recognized that they should split the two into 2 separate species. …Read more