The burrowing owl count is slightly up from last year according to Lori Beall, Program Director for the Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE). Preliminary numbers for the end of nesting season are 402 burrow sites, (585 fledglings vs. 563 from last year). Approximately 250-270 nesting pairs compared to 241 last year’s with count up slightly. That’s a lot of young owls!
Residents are concerned with their favorite bird—the burrowing owls. Marco Island has had its share of torrential summer downpours with more to come. Frequently asked questions include: “Where do owls go when it rains? Do they leave the island after nesting season?”
According to Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) Owl Watch Program, nesting season for burrowing owl was over around mid-July. The chicks have already fledged and are out of the nest.
With some of the burrows filling up with water, the owls are all able to fly and will seek shelter wherever they feel safe. Some like to shelter at a nearby tree, under windowsills or doorways, or outdoor lamp fixtures. Occasionally, you might find an owl sitting on their wooden perch, but the burrows are mainly used for nesting purposes. This is also the time for the young ones to start looking for homes of their own for the upcoming nesting season.
Burrow maintenance is high priority for the Owl Watch Volunteers of Marco Island. During the summer the burrows are surrounded with high grass and vegetation. With almost 400 burrow sites to trim in Marco Island, Owl Watch Marco volunteers find it very difficult to keep up. The volunteers go almost non-stop from July – February keeping the vegetation trimmed around the burrows.
To the rescue—a big thanks to Yvette and Al Benarroch of Affordable Landscaping Services who donated a Weed Eater to the Owl Watch Marco Program. They took the time to show the volunteers how to use the new Weed Eater. In addition, Affordable Landscaping Services will be helping maintain several burrow sites in Marco Island.
Owl Watch Volunteers Lin Taylor and Jean Hall trained the crew of Affordable Landscaping Services in proper burrow maintenance making sure the crew did not collapse the burrow when entering the protection zone.
Be Owl Friendly!
A few cautionary notes to help our charismatic burrowing owls survive through the summer. In addition to burrows being flooded and habitat loss, owls also feed at night and vehicular strikes are frequent.
- Don’t use rodenticides: owls compete with other raptors that hunt at night and prey that has ingested poison is also subject to secondary poisoning. Not just to owls but to other wildlife and to neighborhood pets that are allowed to roam at night
- Slow Down: vehicular strikes claim the lives of many burrowing owls year-round especially at night when they are actively hunting. Slowing down protects not just owls but slow-moving gopher tortoises as well.
- Keep your cats indoors: cats pose a danger to owls and also to other wildlife such as birds.