Saturday, August 20, 2022

Banding Burrowing Owls in Manitoba

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

Manitoba has a Burrowing Owl Recovery Project. Each year members of the project reach into their burrows to band and take samples from them to check on their physical health.

The program started in 1976, after 76 breeding pairs were counted. This led to a "breeding and reintroduction program, with owls from Ontario, Saskatchewan and North Dakota." It didn't work and numbers have been variable since. By the way this brief mention of the attempt is a reminder that the reintroduction of a species missing in an ecosystem is not always a sure thing. On surface it appears to be an obvious solution but there are many variables, some elusive, that can make it problematic as a solution.

The causes of the decline in population include habitat fragmentation --when a landscape is divided, commonly by roads --plays a role, but the issue (take a guess) can largely be blamed on habitat loss from agriculture, oil extraction and other development." In addition but related to habitat loss, the number of the owl's construction workers, hole diggers - foxes, badgers, ground squirrels - have declined.

The CBC's Bryce Hoye has an informative report - the video is 6m 13s long - based on his trip to Melita to band burrowing owls with the Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery project and its director, Alex Froese. Part of the story includes Froese's recovery work, the burying of "a system of hard plastic pail and corrugated tubing underground, a video in which Alex Froese discusses her commitment to burrowing owls, and a photograph of Zoey Bostick an enthusiastic young birder, age 11, who "won a draw to attend...owl banding day in July."

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