In the middle of the busy city of Albuquerque lies an area that appears to be designed specifically for burrowing owls to nest. The area is located along the west side of the city in the Callabacillas Arroyo.
“These burrowing owls live in underground burrows which have been dug out by prairie dogs, squirrels and other small mammals,” said Eddie Paulsgrove, project manager, Regulatory Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We are attempting to recreate the habitat that meets the nesting requirements that the owls need,” he said.
The Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA), in partnership with a developer in the area, proposed constructing an engineered bank line along the Arroyo in order to create bank stabilization and protection. As part of the 404 application process, Paulsgrove determined that burrowing owl habitat would be destroyed during this process. In order to mitigate the situation, AMAFCA hired Mountain West Golfscapes to construct artificial habitats for the small burrowing owls in an area downstream of the development.
There are two different types of burrows that are being constructed. One is a tunnel with an opening that is made completely of wood. The other is a tunnel that is made from large flex tube, or plastic piping. Both types of tunnels are approximately 10 feet long and lead to a 55-gallon plastic drum that has been cut in half with an access hole for the nesting. This drum is placed upside down on the ground. The tunnels are completely buried underground, except for the tunnel opening. This is where the owls will nest.
“There is research that demonstrates that this type of artificial habitat can provide suitable habitat for the owls,” said Paulsgrove.
Construction of the burrows will continue in areas where human activities result in the loss of habitat.
“Our hope is that the owls will occupy these burrows during nesting season,” said Paulsgrove.
Both the Corps of Engineers and AMAFCA are working towards including local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops to help construct and monitor the habitats in the future.
“Including these children in the placement and monitoring of these burrows may help them understand wildlife which is present in urban environments,” Paulsgrove said.