In southern California, the western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea, BUOW) has experienced declining populations for decades, although it was once widespread and abundant in San Diego County during the breeding season. Explore burrowing owl population changes in San Diego County through time with an interactive map.
Get to know burrowing owls as the only owl species that lives in a burrow. In the grasslands of southern California, owls rely on native ground squirrels to engineer their habitat by creating burrows.
The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research (ICR) Burrowing Owl Recovery Program is a comprehensive, multi-faceted effort to address all areas of burrowing owl conservation in southern California. These efforts include everything from reengineering habitat to make it suitable for burrowing owl colonization to studies on passive vs active relocation to a conservation breeding program. We are using satellite GPS telemetry to track owls after translocation to determine currently unknown movement patterns and fates of relocated burrowing owls. The goal is to bring better science and better conservation to burrowing owl populations in southern California.
The fates of owls relocated using passive and active methods have never been comparatively evaluated. A major research project is changing this by collecting statistically robust data with which to analyze and evaluate these methods across four counties in southern California: Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego.
We use GPS satellite telemetry to track burrowing owl movements, mortality, and reproductive output in response to passive and active relocations (‘experimental’ groups), as compared to unrelocated burrowing owls (‘control’ group). This project has also been designed to test new strategies intended to improve the overall efficacy of currently-used active and passive protocols.
This research is funded by grants from the California Energy Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Local Assistance Grant), and Imperial Valley Community Foundation. Please see a full list of project partners on the project page.