Burrowing owls returning to Thompson Okanagan nests after migrating to Mexico | infonews


A surprised burrowing owl taken from its nest in the South Okanagan as the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC checks its tags.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC

10 April 2022 – 6:00 pm

Pushed by warmer weather, one of British Columbia’s most endangered birds is returning to its underground nests for spring.

The Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC, a non-profit group formed in the 1990s to protect and increase the province’s burrowing owl population, discovered yesterday that the little owls had started returning to their nests for the season. .

READ MORE: Near-extinct burrowing owls near Kamloops have a new threat – photographers

“They are all ringed so we can see which ones have returned. This year so far… at one of our sites we have found two pairs and have seen others flying at other sites so that is very good news if they return from migration said the company’s chief executive, Lauren Meads.

The little birds start nesting in late March and April and will have babies in the summer. In the fall, these tiny owls migrate to the United States and Mexico for the winter, she said.

The birds are bred in captivity in Oliver, Langley and Kamloops at the BC Wildlife Park. About 100 owls are raised for a year before being released in the Thompson Nicola and Okanagan regions in underground burrows built by members of the society.

Normally, owls occupy old badger dens, but their grassland habitat is threatened by urbanization and agricultural expansion in the Okanagan and Thompson Nicola Valley. They are currently considered extinct as a breeding species in British Columbia, according to the Ministry of Environment.

“It’s not just in British Columbia that Alberta and Saskatchewan have the bulk of the burrowing owl population, but they’ve also really declined,” Meads said.

The society still understands the birds’ migration patterns and is working with international and Canadian partners to track their migration and determine the dangers, she said.

“It’s a good species to really represent grasslands and we really need to represent grasslands and conserve that ecosystem,” she said.

Since the early 1990s, they’ve released about 3,000 owls and seen about 350 owls return, she said.

“It’s a good return rate, but we’re not at the sustainable part of the program yet where we can leave it and the population can continue,” Meads said.

The company builds nesting sites for burrowing owls. Habitat, migration and climate change all play a role in the declining burrowing owl population, she said.

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