Florida burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia floridana) live in open habitat with short groundcover in burrows. The burrowing owl population in Florida is a geographically distinct subspecies and unlike the western subspecies, they are nonmigratory. Due to the many threats and decreasing availability of vacant lots in urban areas, rangelands appear to be critical to the burrowing owl’s overall conservation. The current status of owls in these areas is unknown because researchers face difficulty accessing privately owned lands.
Population Characteristics and Behavior of Urban and Rural Florida Burrowing Owls
Liz Rose, PhD Student
The overall objective of this research is to document the characteristics of populations and behavior of individuals, and determine the differences between urban and rural Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia floridana). Specific objectives are:
1)Determine how urban and rural owls are differ in reproduction and habitat use. 2)Determine if there is movement of owls between urban and rural areas. 3)Collect and examine basic biological information on rural owls. 4)Examine how urban development impacts owl density and habitat use.
Study is being conducted on 4 operating cattle ranches, Cape Coral and Marco Island.
Monitor reproduction by counting number of juveniles produced and successfully fledged
Camera probe to look for chicks or eggs within burrows
Capture and band owls to identify individuals and monitor movements
Collect blood samples for genetic population analyses
Use small GPS backpacks to record nighttime foraging movements and space use
Data collected from this study will help us effectively manage this species, give us a better understanding of how wild birds adapt to changing landscapes and supply much needed information on the less-studied and potentially important rangeland populations that exist in southern Florida.
Factors Influencing Nest site Selection and success of Starter Burrows for Marco Island Burrowing Owls
Alli Smith, MS Student
The overall objective of my research is to document nest site selection and how successful starter burrows are for Marco Island burrowing owls. Specific objectives are:
1)Determine what factors influence nest-site selection. 2)Investigate whether starter burrows successfully attract burrowing owls and provide additional nesting habitat.
Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) is promoting the installation of starter burrows in the yards of homes in Marco Island.
Starter burrows could provide a cost-effective method of providing additional nesting habitat as more naturally dug burrows are removed for development.
Through AWE’ Owl Watch program, a group of 40 dedicated volunteers monitor every burrow site in Marco Island throughout the nesting season (Mar-July).
From their observations and this project’s banding efforts, the number of burrowing owl pairs and their nesting success can be determined.
In 2017, Owl Watch volunteers observed 170 pairs of burrowing owls, which produced a total of 317 fledglings.
Data collected will aid in understanding the movements and habits of individual owls, as well as nest success and effectiveness of starter burrows.