Burrowing Owls Find Home in the Grasslands of Ramona

| April 5, 2021 | 0 Comments

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance team members gathered with Ramona residents and representatives of natural resource agencies to welcome some new neighbors to the Ramona grasslands: 24 western burrowing owls. The ground-dwelling raptors, which hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, were reintroduced to a swath of suitable habitat preserved as part of the Regional Multiple Species Conservation Plan and managed by the San Diego Habitat Conservancy (SDHC).

Native to western North America, resident populations of burrowing owls are very rare in San Diego County. A resident breeding population has not been documented in the Ramona area in recent history, though the grasslands provide prime habitat with underground burrows and abundant prey. The reintroduction is part of a larger effort in the county that involves many partners, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and SDHC.

“This project is another example of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s long history of partnering with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance to conserve San Diego County’s native species,” said Scott Sobiech, field supervisor at the Service’s Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office. “We cannot accomplish our mission without our valued partners.”

“Actions like this are why we do what we do,” said Don Scoles, executive director of SDHC. “This is the perfect example of how planning and implementation of regional conservation goals has enabled SDHC to be ready to take this colony and manage the land specifically for the burrowing owls for generations to come.” 

Before March 17, 2021 reintroduction, the birds acclimated to the environment inside aviaries. As representatives from the organizations looked on, the temporary structures were removed, completing the owls’ reintroduction. While there are no guarantees the birds will remain in Ramona and start a resident population, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and SDHC staff will continue to monitor and support the owls that remain through supplemental feeding and other management actions.

“We are delighted to be able to bring a species to the Ramona area that will serve to enrich the grasslands area,” said Colleen Wisinski, wildlife recovery expert with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “I am certain that these adorable owls will become celebrities and a beacon of hope in this region – being watched over by the community and everyone who loves birds.” 

Standing around 10 inches tall with a two-foot wingspan, western burrowing owls are the only ground-dwelling owl on the continent.

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Category: Animals, Local News, Nonprofit

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