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Request for Habitat Protection Proposals: Florida Burrowing Owl

What it lacks in size, it makes up for in charisma: the Florida burrowing owl is a small, long-legged owl, averaging just nine inches in height. it gets its names from using burrows for breeding and sheltering. It is primarily found in peninsular Florida, with isolated pairs and small colonies found as far west as Eglin Air Force Base and as far south as the Dry Tortugas. A state-threatened species, the burrowing owl prefers open areas, such as dry prairies, pastures, agricultural fields, golf courses, airports, and vacant lots in some urban areas. Not only do burrowing owls use the ground for their nests and shelter, but unlike most owls, they require sufficient foraging habitat on the ground surrounding their homes as well. Popularized by native Floridian and author Carl Hiaasen in his book Hoot, burrowing owls are threatened by residential and commercial development, which can result in the destruction of burrows or harassment of breeding pairs.

As part of FWC’s Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines alongside the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the burrowing owl is granted protections to prevent harming or disturbing individuals, their eggs, and active nests without proper permission. These permissions typically come in the form of incidental take permits.

Incidental take permits for burrowing owls often involve scoping and excavating burrowing owl burrows. For example, impacts to burrows in the act of building a house would be considered an instance of incidental take. The costs associated with incidental take permits, or mitigation contributions, typically range from $600–$1,900 but can vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the impact to their habitat.

Using mitigation contributions collected from this permitting process, our Foundation has partnered with FWC to fund habitat protection projects to ensure the preservation of this charismatic bird. Proposals will be accepted between March 1–July 15, 2022. Proposals and attachments should be emailed to [email protected] with the subject line: Burrowing Owl Proposal. Proposal instructions, required forms, and a complete list of requirements and evaluation criteria for the funding opportunity are available here. Learn more about our Foundation’s commitment to conserving Florida’s wildlife and how you can help here.

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