Providing Homes for Burrowing Owls

WHC member Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. recently partnered up with WHC’s Tucson office and the Arizona-based raptor rescue organization Wild at Heart to construct artificial burrows for rescued burrowing owls at Freeport’s Safford Operations facility. Freeport produced a video about this project and gave us permission to share it. You can watch the video to see the volunteers in action and find out more about this fantastic project.

If you live out in the western parts of the U.S., you may recognize the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia). Unlike most owls, they are diurnal (active during the day) and nest in underground burrows. However, they don’t dig their own burrows, relying instead on the burrows dug by other animals like prairie dogs. They can often be seen standing or perching near the burrow entrance, ever on the lookout for predators like coyotes and larger raptors. (As wildlife photographer Mac Stone described this behavior, they are “so completely neurotic it’s comical.”)

A common strategy for helping burrowing owls on both public and private lands has been the installation of artificial burrows, such as the burrows installed at the Safford Operations. This project is particularly useful in areas where burrowing small mammals are not desirable.

If you have an interest in installing artificial burrows at your facility, please contact your WHC Regional Biologist.

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