The 2nd Annual Owl Hootenanny on November 2nd was all about making sure everybody in the community knows about these charismatic feathered creatures, how they are doing and what we can all do to protect them.
The event, organized by Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) and Owl Watch volunteers, included plenty of owl games and crafts for the kids and information on burrowing owls. World-class blue grass music was provided by Paddle Faster Blue Grass Band.
According to a presentation by Jean Hall, Project Manager for Owl Watch Marco, the largest population of burrowing owls in Florida are in Marco Island and Cape Coral. In 2018, Owl Watch Marco won the Audubon Florida’s award for the best conservation project in the state.
2019 Nesting Season Numbers from the Marco Island Burrowing Owls:
- 65 Owl Watch Volunteers
- 1,100 Hours Spent Monitoring Owls
- 242 Pairs of Owls
- 563 Chicks Fledged
- 101 Banded Owls
For the 2019 nesting season, the monitors recorded 563 chicks fledged, the highest ever in Marco. According to Hall, part of that is the volunteer weekly data collection with so many more people watching every burrow in Marco.
According to Brad Cornell, Policy Director for the AWE, 95% of the owls are nesting in vacant lots and the cautionary part is that only 17% of the lots in Marco are vacant and that number is going down quickly.
So what’s going to happen to the burrowing owls in Marco Island? Sustaining owl habitat is critical for burrowing owls to stay in Marco. The Owl Watch Program has introduced the Starter Burrow Program recruiting property owners to have starter burrows installed in their already developed yards to entice burrowing owls to move in. So far, Owl Watch has dug over 80 burrows for residents and ten of them have owls and three burrows had chicks. It is an experiment to help stabilize the owl population.
In addition, Brad Cornell’s provided information on a new program that AWE, FWC and the City of Marco Island is working on regarding the Starter Burrows. It was initially proposed by Councilor Jared Grifoni as an incentive grant program to encourage more residents to participate in the Starter Burrow program. This program, if approved, will be a pilot program and the first in the State of Florida.
Regarding the popular and current events about burrowing owls on the news, both Hall and Cornell repeated the message “Owls do not prevent construction. But you do need an FWC permit and construction can happen outside of nesting season.”
If you observe a violation against burrowing owls or gopher tortoises, please call: FWC Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). Or call Marco Island Code Enforcement at the non-emergency number, 239-389-5050.