Not all owls are nocturnal! I found this out while I was vacationing this past weekend on Marco Island. They are called a burrowing owl. They live in sandy climates and prairies. Not too long ago they were prevalent in the prairies as far north as Minnesota. They hunt by running on the ground and capturing their prey, or by swooping off short perches and fence posts. Due to developments and shrinking prairies, their species has been dwindling in population. So much so that they are listed as endangered in Minnesota.
Florida’s Burrowing Owl Population
The residents of Florida have taken extra special care to ensure this doesn’t happen there. They are a ‘Species of Concern’ in the state and therefore have special laws to protect their habitat. When you drive around some of the coastal towns, like Marco Island, you’ll notice that they have roped off sections around the Owls burrows. It is illegal to move them. Developers end up jumping through a lot of hoops to build. Often it involves getting the Federal Wildlife Services to move the owl’s nests during the offseason.
Their efforts have paid off because the population of burrowing owls in Florida is thriving. In a lot of neighborhoods, you’ll see them on every street corner. Homeowners will even dig up a section sod and make perches to entice them into their yards. They are great at keeping insects and small pests away. The owls stay by their perch most of the day. And frankly, who wouldn’t want a cute owl outside your house?
How to See Marco Island Owls?
To see them on your next trip, keep an eye out for roped off sections of ground with a mound of sand. During Dawn or Dusk, venture out to burrows. Try and spot their heads sticking up off the ground. They have some great camouflage, so if you aren’t looking, you probably won’t see them. If they are present, make your way up closer to it, but not too close. If they start Hooting, screeching or moving around, back away. You’re making them nervous. While you are only required to stay as far back as the roapes, they would preff you to stay back further.
Another thing you can do is if you are in your car, to just pull off to the side of the road. Roll your window down and take a peak. If you try opening your door, they will go back underground.
The locals refer to them as ‘Hootie Owls’. I’m guessing they got the name from the children’s book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. It’s about a few children that try and preserve the Owls habitat from developers. It’s a great read for any younger readers in your family and will help get them to learn more about these amazing raptors.
What can you do to help in Minnesota?
It’s always my goal to protect the world we live in, any way possible. In Minnesota, a lot of the damage has already been done. The biggest thing we can do to help is to make sure we don’t disturb them in the wild. Give them their space and help them flourish. Spottings in Minnesota are few and far between. The last sighting was in 2007. I’m hoping that it’s not too late to save them here. If you would like to learn more about the Burrowing Owls, check out the Minnesota Raptor Center or make a donation. Other take a trip down to Flordia this spring and see them in person. It’s a treat.