Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Burrowing owl viewing in Broward County

The other day I got an email from a family of birders that was visiting South Florida.  After taking several birding tours, they wanted to relax and view some Burrowing owls.  Initially, I didn’t think I was going to be able to help them out.  I didn’t know of any locations in Fort Lauderdale but a quick search on the internet revealed a couple of good locations in Broward County Parks.  I thought some of you might want to get out and watch these unique owls.  And for those of you stuck at home or in the office, there’s even a Burrowing Owl Cam
The first park is  Brian Piccolo Park at 9501 Sheridan Street in Cooper City, FL 33024.  Here’s some information from a birding website:
At first glance, this is an unlikely birding spot, with its assortment of baseball, football, soccer and cricket fields. Look a little closer though, and you’ll notice posts with flagging tape roping off holes in the middle of fields. Believe it or not, this is one of the best sites to easily see Florida Burrowing Owls in the state. The owl population here is doing quite well, and they’re the pride and joy of park staff, who accommodate the birds’ sometimes inconvenient choices of burrow locations. Respect their space, and you’ll get excellent views. They even hunt on game nights, when insects are attracted to the ball fields’ lights! This park is also a good location to see wading birds, Fish Crows, Boat-tailed Grackles and Loggerhead Shrikes. Scan the small ponds for overwintering ducks, and check the scattered trees for migratory songbirds. Formerly, Smooth-billed Anis were sometimes found along the power line easement at the back of the park, but they have not been seen for many years now. An entrance fee applies only on weekends and holidays.
Directions: From intersection of US 441 and SR 822 (Sheridan St.) in Hollywood (Fort Lauderdale), drive west on SR 822 for appx. 4.0 mi. The park entrance is on the right (north) side of the road, just west of the intersection with Pine Island Rd.
And the second park is the Central Broward Regional Park and Stadium at 3700 NW 11th Place in Lauderhill, FL 33311.  Here’s some of the information from their website:
Birds of a Feather
Did you know there’s a thriving colony of burrowing owls at Central Broward Regional Park & Stadium in Lauderhill? Florida burrowing owls, the only ground-nesting owls in the state, are listed as a Species of Special Concern by the state and are also protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act. That’s because the birds are threatened by the loss of habitat and by such urban predators as snakes, opossums, raccoons, and even cats and dogs. When Central Broward Regional was built in 2005, a priority was ensuring that the burrowing owls already living on the site be preserved and protected.
Here are a few interesting tidbits about burrowing owls:
· They’re sometimes called the “howdy bird” because of their habit of bowing and bobbing when approached.
· Burrowing owls have 13 distinct calls, more than any other North American owl. One of them mimics the sound of a rattlesnake.
· Females incubate the eggs while the males stand sentry at the entrance to the nest and hunt for food. A male will bring the food back to the entrance, and the female will take it inside to the owlets.
· Baby owls emerge from the burrow when they are 10 to 14 days old. Their parents teach them to hunt by bringing them dead or injured insects to pounce on.
· Males are often lighter-colored than females, thought to be due to sun-bleaching from standing guard while the females incubate the eggs underground.
Remember to always keep your distance and never harass wildlife!