On May 9th, six pairs of Burrowing Owls were brought out to two different release sites in the southwestern Manitoba. They were placed into soft release enclosures to allow them to acclimate to the new environment and begin nesting. The owls are fed and monitored by MBORP staff daily at this sites.
Nesting started around May 28th. As of May 30th, the total number of eggs was 15 in 5 nests. Burrowing Owls have a high reproductive rate and can produce large nests (9-13 eggs in a clutch). Not all of these eggs hatch and if they do, generally only 70% of young will survive. The female begins incubating eggs around 28 to 30 days. Burrowing Owls hatch their eggs asynchronously, which means they do not all hatch at once but depending on when they were laid. This leads to having young that are different ages, varying by 1 to 2 days between each young. Newly hatched Burrowing Owls weigh only 8 grams which is the weight of 8 paperclips and come out of an egg the size of a ping pong ball.
We conduct roadside surveys for wild Burrowing Owl annually during the breeding season (May through August). These surveys allow us to detect wild owls and help us determine where the best potential habitat for Burrowing Owls is located throughout southwestern Manitoba. In order for land to be considered suitable habitat for Burrowing Owls, the area needs to be open, grazed pastureland with no trees, with good drainage and visible burrows. We keep track of suitable habitat and contact landowner to discuss options of installing artificial nest burrows (ANBs) on the land to encourage wild owls to nest in these protected homes should they return to the area. ANBs consists of a section of weeping tile that mimics a badger or fox burrow and has a large plastic bucket installed 5-8 feet deep in the ground. Burrowing Owls like nesting in artificial nest burrows, we have observed nest re-occupancy rates of 44% vs. 13% for natural burrows.
We encourage landowners with an interest in improving their land for Burrowing Owls and other grassland birds to contact us. We would be happy to complete a quick survey of your land and to discuss options for artificial nest burrow installations. If you are interested in improving your land or have any questions, feel free to contact Turtle Mountain Conservation District (204) 747-2530 or email us at email@example.com.
If you hear or see a Burrowing Owls on your land, don’t hesitate to call either, Turtle Mountain Conservation District at (204) 747-2530 or West Souris River Conservation District at (204) 877-3020. If you are interested in keeping up with what is happening with the program this season please follow our social media at the Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program on Facebook and @koko_theowl on Instagram. We also have a website at www.mborp.ca that has more information about our program.