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Photo by Tom Grey

Burrowing Owl Protection

Burrowing owl populations have drastically declined in many parts of their North American range over the last 30 years. Once common in grasslands, this species is listed as federally endangered in Canada since 1995, threatened in Mexico since 1994, and has special status as endangered, threatened, or a species of special concern in 11 states in the United States. In California, the burrowing owl was listed as a Species of Special Concern in 1978.


The conversion of grasslands to urban areas or agriculture, associated ground-disturbing activities (e. g., disking, trenching, and bulldozing), and the eradication of burrowing mammals are among the factors contributing to the population decline. Habitat conversion reduces natural burrow availability, foraging area, and prey abundance. As a consequence, owls are displaced from previously occupied areas, and their breeding opportunities may be reduced.


The San Francisco Bay Area, historically one of four primary burrowing owl nesting areas in California, has suffered steep population declines during the last 30 years. For many years, our Environmental Advocate (Shani Kleinhaus), Burrowing Owl Project Managers and Lead Biologists (Phil Higgins and Sandra Menzel), along with many volunteers and supporters, have been diligently advocating for the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of the burrowing owl and its habitat in the Santa Clara Valley and beyond.



© Tom Grey

2016 Burrowing Owl Update

In late September, SCVAS partnering with San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) were awarded a 5-year contract with the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency (SCVHA) to manage the bufferlands of the Santa Clara/San Jose Wastewater Facility in Alviso. The contract starts October 1st 2016 for maintaining the habitat and performing various surveys to monitor breeding pairs and chick counts for overall burrowing owl conservation techniques and long-term strategies.


SCVAS have managed this land for the City of San Jose for the last four years and look forward to continuing our work managed by SCVHA and with the support of our dedicated SCVAS members, volunteers, and now with our new partner SFBBO. The nesting burrowing owl population at this 200-acre site has increased for the fourth consecutive year. This year, our burrowing owl biologists counted 12 pairs with a minimum of 58 young, up from 10 pairs with 46 young last year, eight pairs with 17 young in 2014, and six pairs with 12 young in 2013.


Although this is wonderful news, we have to continue our conservation efforts throughout the Santa Clara Valley as development pressures and habitat loss continue to increase, and the burrowing owl population decreases throughout its range.


Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities

Stay tuned!