I went on an Owl Walk with Desert Rivers Audubon Society at Zanjero Park in Gilbert. This was a lot of fun and we saw 4 Burrowing Owls.
Burrowing owls are small owls that usually inhabit dry, open areas where grasslands, rangelands, agricultural lands, and deserts and scrublands are found. They are very small owls–not more than 12 inches tall. They also have relatively long legs and short tails. They are mainly brown with many white or tan spots. They also have white “eyebrows” above their yellow eyes.
These owls like to build or occupy homes underground. The ones in Florida usually build their own burrows. However most other burrowing owls occupy abandoned homes of others such as ground squirrels prairie dogs, badgers, foxes, or coyotes.
Many of them have found a home in Gilbert, especially in Zanjero Park where volunteers have erected tunnels for them with large plastic pipes. There are about 15 of them in the park, though we only saw 4. I was quite happy to see that number in the wild, but I was disappointed that none of them perched on a branch. Photographs on boards or plastic tunnels are not very pleasing. But you gotta dance with the girl you brung.
The park is rather dull looking right beside a major highway. Someone said the government was thinking of building a major access to the highway right there. This would completely disrupt the owls. On one side is a farm that no doubt provides tasty rodents to the owls. The way things go around here that farm may not last long either. These owls need protection.
The owls are federally protected by treaty and legislation in both Canada and the United States. They are endangered in Canada and listed as threatened in Mexico.
According to our guide from the Audubon Society burrowing owls from Canada leap frog over these owls to Mexico. These owls they believe have migrated from the northern plains in the United States, not Canada.
Even though the setting was poor for photographs I did get some shots. The birds were very cooperative. Although they did not perch on a branch, they did stand in front of or near their burrows and were not very disturbed at people near by. I had a lot of fun. I want to go back and try again for better environmental shots.