Effects of Management Practices on Grassland Birds: Burrowing Owl

Jill A. Dechant, Marriah L. Sondreal, Douglas H. Johnson, Lawrence D. Igl, Christopher M. Goldade, Paul A. Rabie, Betty R. Euliss
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 6/14/2023

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Information on the habitat requirements and effects of habitat management on grassland birds were summarized from information in more than 4,000 published and unpublished papers.

  • A range map is provided to indicate the relative densities of the species in North America, based on Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data.
  • The species account begins with a brief capsule statement, which provides the fundamental components or keys to management for the species.
  • The suitable habitat section describes the breeding habitat and occasionally microhabitat characteristics of the species, especially those habitats that occur in the Great Plains.
  • The area requirements section provides details on territory and home range sizes, minimum area requirements, and the effects of patch size, edges, and other landscape and habitat features on abundance and productivity.
  • The section on breeding-season phenology and site fidelity includes details on spring arrival and fall departure for migratory populations in the Great Plains, peak breeding periods, the tendency to renest after nest failure or success, and the propensity to return to a previous breeding site.
  • Species’ response to management summarizes the current knowledge and major findings in the literature on the effects of different management practices on the species.
  • The section on management recommendations complements the previous section and summarizes specific recommendations for habitat management provided in the literature.

Keys to management include providing areas of short, sparse vegetation and maintaining populations of prey species and of burrowing mammals to ensure availability of burrows as nest sites. In particular, the conservation of black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) and Richardson’s ground squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii) colonies appears to be vital to the preservation of Burrowing Owls on the Great Plains.


Dechant, J.A., Sondreal, M.L., Johnson, D.H., Igl, L.D., Goldade, C.M., Rabie, P.A., Euliss, B.R. (2002). Effects of Management Practices on Grassland Birds: Burrowing Owl. USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, 123. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/usgsnpwrc/123.

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