Species Spotlight: Burrowing Owl

Nick Dobric

watch

Tibetan Monks Visit Sutton Mountain

Tibetan Monks Visit Sutton Mountain

watch

Chad Brown on Fly Fishing

Chad Brown on Fly Fishing

fact

Far from Big Macs

Far from Big Macs

There is a point in the Owyhee region, in northwestern Nevada, that is, at 115 miles away, as far away as you can get from a McDonalds in the U.S.

Source: http://www.datapointed.net/2010/09/distance-to-nearest-mcdonalds-sept-2010

Burrowing Owl

Devlin Holloway

Devlin Holloway

Add to their expressive unibrow their body bobs, 180-degree head tilts to the left and right, and communal nature (so you can see groups of them bobbing and tilting at once), and you start to understand why just about everyone loves a Burrowing Owl.

Which is not to say we’re doing a great job of protecting these owls. It used to be you could get your truck’s grill cleaned by nesting Burrowing Owls while you used the facilities at the Brothers Oasis (the rest area in the tiny town of Brothers, Ore.).

Those owls, and countless others across the country, were killed by people who were trying to kill something else — ground squirrels, in this case. The irony is that Burrowing Owls are on the same side as landowners, regularly eating their fill of ground squirrels, pocket gophers, and other rodents.

Today, Burrowing Owls are considered “birds of conservation concern” both federally and in Oregon and seven other Western states. It’s not only poisoning and pesticides that’s causing their declining populations but also (and perhaps mostly) habitat loss. They need flat, open territories—shrub-steppe and grasslands, ideally, or agricultural fields and pastures. In Oregon, they also need badgers around to build burrows.

Which brings us to public lands, which provide the natural habitat that Burrowing Owls and just about every other bird needs. Deepening protections of the wild lands of southeast Oregon, for instance, would help these owls and hundreds of other species. So would installation of artificial nest burrows and the addition of more habitat protection programs throughout Central and Eastern Oregon.

There’s nothing funny about the dangers facing Burrowing Owls, but the good news is that through ONDA and other like-minded organizations, we can take action to ensure these odd little owls are still out there for a long time to come, cooing and hissing, bobbing and head-tilting, burrowing and bringing us joy.


About the Author

LeeAnn Kreigh is a long-time ONDA member, freelance writer and the author of The Nature of Bend.

Learn More

Species Spotlight: Burrowing Owl

A Funny Little Owl By LeeAnn Kriegh Pronghorn are perhaps the most graceful animal native to the high desert country of Central and Eastern Oregon. Golden Eagles are the most majestic, Greater Sage-Grouse the most emblematic. And Burrowing Owls? They’re the funniest. Let us never overlook the fact that we’re talking about owls who...

Read More

Species Spotlight: Bluebirds

Bluebirds of Happiness By LeeAnn Kriegh Is there any bird that inspires more passion and poetry than bluebirds? Henry David Thoreau, for one, wrote eloquently of the bird that “carries the sky on his back” and suggested that a person’s “interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list...

Read More

Species Spotlight: Black Cottonwood

Where There’s Cottonwood, There’s Water. We recommend listening to this Cottonwood Canyon Riparian Soundscape while you read this Species Spotlight. At the new Riley Ranch Nature Reserve in Bend, a friend pointed into the distance and said, “Huh, looks like there’s water over that rise.” We couldn’t actually see any water, so how did...

Read More