The long-legged, yellow-eyed burrowing owl is one of the 146 species covered by RCA’s MSHCP. This charming small owl has distinctive white “eyebrow” markings and stilt-like legs. Nesting in underground burrows, usually left by other animals such as ground squirrels, the burrowing owl prefers open flat grassland habitat, a factor that has led to declining numbers over the last 20 years as development has occurred. Male burrowing owls prepare the nest and groups are known to nest together, often in the same spot year after year.
Under federal laws protecting migratory birds, both the owls and their burrows are protected. Mitigation includes relocating birds that have been displaced and allowing birds to relocate into new burrows in a safe location.
Relocation is an expensive process that requires the assistance of a licensed handler who keeps the birds in captivity for up to 18 months.
So when now-Eagle Scout Richard Aldersley, proposed building new burrows for owls, RCA accepted his proposal with enthusiasm. Aldersley and other scouts from Temecula Boy Scout Troup 337 spent a fall day in 2007 building 10 burrows based on Aldersley’s design. Irrigation valve boxes with entries constructed of drainage pipe were buried about two feet deep. Narrow entries and long pipes led to chambers buried enough for insulation and also too deep for foraging coyotes. Air was provided through a small pipe to the surface from the roof of the burrow.
The site for the project, on a portion of 400 acres of donated property called “El Sol Vineyard Hill” is prime burrowing owl habitat.