homepage logo

More than 150 volunteers turn out for annual Burrowing Owl Census

By CJ HADDAD - | May 21, 2024

Members of the community flocked to the cause this past weekend to help count the Cape Coral’s official city bird.

The sixth annual Burrowing Owl Census, put on by the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, spread throughout the Cape where more than 150 volunteers helped get a better idea of how many of this unique owl species call the city home.

While official numbers won’t be ready for a few weeks, in 2023, organizers tallied nearly 4,000 burrowing owls, with all signs pointing to that number holding steady.

“The census is a tremendous effort which could not happen without many volunteers from the community,” said CCFW spokesperson Janet Windisch. “It’s an important duty, but it’s also very exciting for nature lovers. I talked to many volunteers as they returned to Rotary Park with their census results and everyone had a story about the burrowing owls they saw.”

Experiences included seeing a dark-eyed owl for the first time, watching owlets pop out of their burrows to check out the census takers, and seeing owls lay on the ground with their wings spread to stay cool. Windisch said this is sometimes misinterpreted as a deceased owl, but on the contrary, they are just trying to stay cool. Volunteers noted that owls were very visible in the early morning but disappeared into their burrows later when it got hot.

CCFW officials do this each year to get a better understanding of where and how these owls live, especially with a continuously growing city.

“Measuring the population helps guide future conservation efforts,” Windisch said. “We need data to find out if the policies and programs currently in place are working and how they can be improved. The census can give us clues as to where the owls go when development displaces them. What habitat do the owls prefer? Are starter burrows effective? What is the effect of environmental factors like the hurricane?”

Every week on Wednesday mornings, weather permitting, Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife members perform maintenance on some of the nearly 2,200 burrows located in the city. Armed with city maps, powered grass trimmers, safety equipment, and lots of enthusiasm, this group of dedicated volunteers trim burrows with high weeds, install PVC pipes and perches on newly found burrows, repair and clean up existing burrows. They also have obtained GPS coordinates for every known burrow and submitted this information to the city of Cape Coral to be put in the city data base.

For more information on CCFW, burrowing owls, and how to install a starter burrow or help with maintenance, visit www.ccfriendsofwildlife.com.