Burrowing owls strive to survive drought, too busy to bear new crop
Article Date: 2007-07-16 Source: http://www.marconews.com
By Jeremy Cox
Marco Island, Florida, U.S.A. - Many burrowing owls were too busy trying to survive an 18-month drought to bear a new crop of owls this year on Marco Island, their primary nesting area in Collier County.
''They didn't have enough energy or food to produce young,'' said Nancy Richie, an environmental specialist with the city of Marco Island. ''And if they were able to lay eggs, there wasn't enough food to feed the chicks.''
Of the 107 nesting sites, only 45 contained chicks. That level of
productivity was off 20 percent compared with the previous two seasons, Richie
Rain has been in short supply not only on Marco but across southern Florida
since the fall of 2005. Under normal conditions, water gives rise to insects,
frogs, anoles and rodents — which, taken together, add up to a burrowing owl's
During the five-month nesting season, which officially ended Saturday, owl
watchers often found dead, shriveled-up owls beside the openings to their
tunnels on Marco. Since it didn't appear that dogs or other animals were
involved, Richie figured that the owls died simply of starvation.
"That's how a species handles environmental change. Basically, the strong
survive" she said.
Richie documented 18 instances in which burrowing owl pairs apparently on the
brink of mating fled a nest. For so many birds to disappear during one season is
"kind of alarming," she said.
State wildlife officials have designated the tiny bird of prey as a species
of special concern. Burrowing owls are vanishing under pressure from bulldozers,
deadly attacks by predators and the overuse of pesticides.
This year, the estimated burrowing owl population on Marco stood at 113.
Aside from a smattering of nests in Golden Gate Estates, the owls don't lay
their eggs anywhere else in Collier, Richie said.
The Marco nests resulted in 141 chicks, down from last year's estimate of
more than 200.
It is illegal to destroy a burrow without a permit, but that's exactly what
happened in two cases this year. Both, oddly, came on the street: Copperfield
One burrow was filled with wet sand at a home construction site, but the sand
didn't appear to come from the property. Down the street, someone plugged
another burrow full of mangoes.
Neither incident produced enough evidence for the state to press charges,
Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from http://www.marconews.com and placed here for comment.
OwlPages.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.
2008-05-25 - Burrowing owls make great neighbors by Leigh Tahirovic - Marco Island, Florida, U.S.A.
2006-11-01 - 2 burrowing owls make themselves at home on Site C by Ed Bania - Marco Island, Florida, U.S.A.
2006-08-16 - You can help homeless burrowing owls by Kara Kenney - Marco Island, Florida, U.S.A.
2006-06-15 - Burrowing owls holding their own by Mike Reilly - Marco Island, Florida, U.S.A.
2005-05-04 - Marcophile: Our owls: good news and bad news by Chris Curle - Marco Island, Florida, U.S.A.
2004-04-07 - 'Hooters' update Night life on Marco is lively by Chris Curle - Marco Island, Florida, U.S.A.
< Previous News article | Next News Article >
Comment on the above News article.