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COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Burrowing Owl in Canada

Special Significance of the Species

Burrowing Owls were formerly common inhabitants of open habitats throughout most of the western U.S.A and the southern parts of western Canada. Burrowing Owls are now rare throughout their Canadian range, which is one-third the size it was in the early 1990s, and are declining everywhere except the core of the species’ range in the mid-western United States. Despite considerable attention from researchers and government agencies, it is still unclear which factors are ultimately responsible for the declines (see discussions in Holroyd et al. 2001, Wellicome and Holroyd 2001, McDonald et al. 2004). The population decline likely cannot be explained by a single factor; instead, it appears to result from the cumulative impacts of several threats, many of which may be interacting. Conservation actions have successfully engaged landowners on the Canadian prairies in helping to preserve Burrowing Owl habitat. The extent to which potential threats (habitat loss, pesticides) during migration and on the wintering grounds are contributing to ongoing declines is not yet clear.