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February 23, 2011

Florida Students Learn to Give a Hoot about Burrowing Owls

More than 100 students watched the South Florida Wildlife Center release of a burrowing owl

  • Burrowing owls are unlike most other owls. Eileen Soler/The HSUS

  • Students watch as South Florida Wildlife Center staffs prepares to release the owl. Eileen Soler/The HSUS

  • The owl took about five minutes to emerge. Eileen Soler/The HSUS

  • The injured owl flies back into the wild where he belongs. Eileen Soler/The HSUS

Florida’s burrowing owls are a fascinating species. Besides starring in the well-known Carl Hiassen mystery book and movie “Hoot,” the 10-inch-high birds are unlike most other owls. For one thing, they are active during daytime—not at night. And instead of living in trees, they live in underground burrows.

Late last summer, a concerned citizen came to the South Florida Wildlife Center with an injured burrowing owl. He said he had seen a hawk grab the owl, and, indeed, the small bird had to be treated for puncture wounds.

The injured owl was rescued on the grounds of Hollywood Hills Elementary School. So it seemed appropriate to create a learning experience when it was time to release the bird back into the wild. And so last fall, 100-plus students and teachers gathered outside the school for the release and a presentation, which was coordinated with representatives from Audubon of Florida.

The students learned that burrowing owls are protected as a species of special concern in Florida because their habitat is threatened by when wild areas are converted to subdivisions, malls and golf courses. The school‘s grounds are home to three pairs of burrowing owls.

When it was time to set the owl free, South Florida Wildlife Center Release Coordinator Greg Adler faced the carrier towards  the active owl burrows and opened the door.

“The owl wasn’t as anxious about being released as the kids were,” Adler said. “It took about five minutes before the owl decided to leave.

“It flew out over the open field, then turned and flew right over the children who watched with excitement. I believe they felt some sort of pride that this owl lives at their school and happy that it was back home.”

 

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