Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) populations are declining in many portions of their range, and lack of suitable nesting burrows is thought to be one reason for observed declines. Burrowing owls are attracted to golf courses because the birds generally nest and forage in short-grass, open areas, yet golf courses seldom have suitable nesting burrows. We examined the efficacy of installing artificial nesting burrows on golf courses as a way to help restore local burrowing owl populations. From 2001-2004 we monitored over 175 natural burrows off golf courses, 14 natural burrows on golf courses, 86 artificial burrows off golf courses, and 130 artificial burrows on golf courses. Owls located and used 8 of the 130 artificial burrows installed on golf courses (4 were used as nests). Owls selected burrows that were closer to existing natural burrows, farther from maintained areas (areas receiving turf maintenance by golf course staff), and farther from sprinkler heads. All 4 of the artificial burrows used as nests successfully fledged young, and annual site fidelity for owls nesting on golf courses was higher than for owls nesting off golf courses. However, annual fecundity of owls nesting on golf courses was lower than that of owls nesting off golf courses. If golf courses have sufficiently large nonmaintained areas and there are nesting owls nearby, course managers potentially can help in restoring local burrowing owl populations by installing artificial nesting burrows on the periphery of the course. However, the low fecundity on golf courses reported here should be more thoroughly examined before artificial burrows are used to attract owls to golf courses.
Additional publication details
Burrowing owl nesting productivity: A comparison between artificial and natural burrows on and off golf courses