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Recovery Strategy for the Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) in Canada (Proposed)
- 2.1 Rationale for Recovery Feasibility
- 2.2 Recovery Goal
- 2.3 Recovery Objectives
- 2.4 Approaches Recommended to Address Threats and Meet Recovery Objectives
- 2.5 Critical Habitat
- 2.6 Potential Effects on Other Species
- 2.7 Statement of When One or More Action Plans Will Be Completed
2.1 Rationale for Recovery Feasibility
Recovery of Burrowing Owls within Canada is definitely feasible. Indeed, with appropriate environmental conditions, local populations have increased more than 170% between consecutive years. Certain characteristics of the species contribute to this potential for rapid population increase, including high mobility and the production of large clutches. Although the detailed habitat needs of the Burrowing Owl are currently unknown, the general habitat requirements (open grassland with burrows) are met by the currently available habitat. Numerous recovery actions have been suggested for Burrowing Owls, and several are being implemented with success. Addressing knowledge gaps and narrowing the list of factors potentially explaining the population decline will provide further focus and efficiencies for these recovery efforts. Overall, a high level of effort and cooperation will be required by governments, non-government organizations, industry, stakeholders, landowners, and the general public to control potential threats, conserve habitat, and share responsibilities for the conservation and recovery of this species in North America (Commission for Environmental Cooperation 2005). Despite the high level of effort and cooperation that is required, the actions necessary to achieve recovery of this species appear to be achievable using a variety of existing recovery techniques.
2.2 Recovery Goal
The long-term recovery goal for the Burrowing Owl is to reverse the population decline in Canada and maintain1 a self-perpetuating, well-distributed2 population of at least 3000 breeding pairs3 within the four western provinces.
2.3 Recovery Objectives
- Identify factors associated with annual population changes.
- Identify and implement protocols that mitigate factors affecting population declines.4
- Maintain, increase, and enhance Burrowing Owl breeding and foraging habitat.
- Optimize nesting success, fledging rate, and survival of Burrowing Owls on the Canadian breeding grounds.5
- Reestablish wild breeding populations of Burrowing Owls within their historical range in British Columbia and their 1993 range in Manitoba.6
- Encourage management, conservation, and research on Burrowing Owls, and the habitats they use, during all seasons in the United States and Mexico.7
- Engage, support, and communicate with land holders and land managers about actions to improve Burrowing Owl populations and habitat in their local areas.
2.4 Approaches Recommended to Address Threats and Meet Recovery Objectives
Refer to Table 1 for a list of approaches recommended to address threats and meet recovery objectives.
|Priority||Objective No.||Threats||Broad strategy||Recommended approaches to address threats and meet recovery objectives|
|High||2, 3, 6, 7||Habitat modification||Habitat protection|
|High||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7||Decreased prey||Habitat management|
|High||2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7||Loss of burrows||Habitat and species management|
|High||2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7||Increased predation||Habitat management|
|High||5||Various||Habitat management |
|Medium||2, 4, 7||Vehicles||Education Outreach|
|Medium||1, 2, 4, 6, 7||Environmental contaminants||Outreach|
|Low||1, 7||Inclement weather||Research|
2.5 Critical Habitat
2.5.1 Identification of the Species' Critical Habitat
Critical habitat cannot currently be defined for the Burrowing Owl in Canada because of inadequate knowledge of the majority of owl locations, a limited understanding of owl habitat associations during breeding at both landscape and home-range levels (see section 1.7, Knowledge Gaps), and because Burrowing Owls do not exhibit high site-fidelity to their nesting burrows. Critical habitat will be identified in action plans, by 31 December 2009, with input from the National Burrowing Owl Recovery Team and provincial Recovery Implementation Groups.
2.5.2 Schedule of Studies to Identify Critical Habitat
A schedule of studies required to aid in the identification of critical habitat is outlined in Table 2.
Description of Research Activity
|Start Date||Completion Date|
|Targeted surveys, within generally suitable habitat types and areas of past sightings, to better identify the species' distribution and potential concentrations||1987||Ongoing|
|Estimate demographic parameters (e.g., productivity, survival, dispersal) in relation to habitat types/conditions||2003||2007|
|Conduct breeding season habitat mapping and habitat association modelling, based on nesting habitat associations and productivity, to inform the definition of critical habitat||2003||2007|
|Conduct nocturnal foraging studies to determine home-range sizes and habitat use vs. prey and habitat types or conditions, to inform the definition of critical habitat||1999||2009|
|Refine critical habitat definition, incorporating any new information as needed||2010||Ongoing|
2.6 Potential Effects on Other Species
Habitat management for Burrowing Owls will positively affect many other prairie species, including other species at risk. Burrowing Owls appear to require a diversity of grassland habitat conditions for nesting and foraging. If a healthy mosaic of grasslands is maintained, in combination with effective grazing and haying management practices, Burrowing Owls will be only one of many native prairie species that benefit. Specifically, protection and proper management of native prairie will also benefit other listed species, such as Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii), Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis), Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus), swift fox (Vulpes velox), Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), and black-tailed prairie dog. Burrowing Owl breeding and survival are influenced by the availability of burrows. Therefore, Burrowing Owl recovery actions encourage the conservation of populations of native burrowing mammals, such as badgers, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and marmots, which would also benefit several other wildlife species that prey on these burrowing mammals (e.g., Ferruginous Hawks) or use their burrows. In specific local situations, owl recovery may include predator exclusion from nest burrows (via artificial nest burrows) and habitat management near Burrowing Owl nesting areas to discourage predators that have increased above historical levels because of positive associations with agricultural activities (e.g., Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus, Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis, striped skunk, red fox, and coyote; Wellicome and Haug 1995). Thus, there are potentially negative effects on these common predatory species at Burrowing Owl management sites, but their overall population numbers will undoubtedly still remain high. Placement of hawk nesting substrates (natural or artificial) must also consider potential effects on nearby Burrowing Owls to allow for the concurrent management of Ferruginous Hawk and Burrowing Owl populations.
2.7 Statement of When One or More Action Plans Will Be Completed
Action plans compliant with the Species at Risk Act are scheduled for development by December 31, 2009, to cover jurisdictions within the range of the Burrowing Owl in Canada. The Recovery Plan for Burrowing Owl in Alberta has been published (Alberta Burrowing Owl Recovery Team 2005). In addition, a draft Recovery Action Plan for Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) has been prepared by the British Columbia Recovery Implementation Group (Leupin in review). Both of these plans will have to be reviewed for SARA compliancy if they are to serve as Action Plans under SARA.
1 Over a minimum 10-year period.
2 In the three Prairie provinces, the area covered by 95% of future owl locations should encompass the 1993 range (see Figure 2). In British Columbia, Burrowing Owls should be distributed within their historical range in the Thompson/Nicola and Okanagan regions.
3 The 1995 National Recovery Plan (Hjertaas et al. 1995) had the equivalent population recovery goal. The current goal for population size should be calculated as a three-year running average, with at least 30 breeding pairs in British Columbia.
7 See North American Conservation Action Plan for the Western Burrowing Owl (Commission for Environmental Cooperation 2005).
- Date Modified: