Western Burrowing Owl Ask a Scientist
In March 2020, we started a social media campaign called Ask A Scientist, where we covered a different topic each week and invited people to ask questions which we answered ever Friday. One of our topics was Burrowing Owls with guest scientists Phil Higgins and Sandra Menzel.
Did you know that Burrowing Owls are the only species of owls nesting and roosting in underground burrows? In the Bay Area, these birds rely mostly on California ground squirrels to dig these burrows. When ground squirrels are absent, artificial burrows are sometimes installed as a temporary management tool.
Burrowing Owl populations have been declining throughout most of their range. Some factors for the decline include destruction of grassland habitat, lack of vegetation management, lack of prey, predation, and ground squirrel extermination. Ground squirrels are a keystone species for healthy grassland habitat and provide important ecosystem services.
SFBBO collaborates with Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society to conduct vegetation management for Burrowing Owl habitat. We hope to resume volunteer work days in the future, so keep an eye out!
Thank you to Phil Higgins and Sandra Menzel for being our guest scientists and answering these questions.