So things are a little rough for you right now, huh? Well, more than likely things could be worse. Take the burrowing owls of Broward County here in South Florida. Their homes are literally being plowed over or bulldozed under by that great American plight known as “development.” Be it urban or suburban, commercial or residential, the land that has served as home to the owls is being claimed and they’re not included in the deal.
Quite coincidentally, Saturday evening I was over in a park just up the street from my home. My mission: get a few photographs of the burrowing owls that inhabit about a half dozen roped-off areas in the park. The very next morning there’s a headline story about them in Sunday’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper. Well, it’s not the first time I’ve been scooped.
There are a good number of burrowing owls in Florida, thanks to the drainage of wetlands that has taken place over the past half-century. While this provided a welcoming environment to the burrowing owl, what the state giveth, the state is taking away. Development of many of these drained areas has now threatened the owls residency in the sunshine state. Legislators have in the past, and continue now to pass legislation restricting blatant destruction of the owls’ habitat.
They are pretty unique as owls go. First, they live in the ground, not up in trees or in the hayloft of barns. Their homes can reach as much as 8-feet down under. The park near my home has roped off each roost. The owls are pretty used to having humans around and they don’t skitter easily as long as you stay out of their roped area. They are cute little creatures and a for-sure attraction for children, especially when these owls turn their heads to look around. Their heads seem to swivel 360 degrees like the turret on R2-D2. They eat mostly bugs and other tiny thingies. Area hawks that swoop in from the nearby Everglades eat them.
If you are into wildlife, South Florida has much to offer. And it’s all practically in your face. You can pick a topic or an animal and no doubt instantly go strutting off on a nature walk to find it. But be careful what you wish for…’dars alligators out there! Many creatures, large and small, tame and not-so-tame have found a permanent home here. Others, like the burrowing owl may have to relocate, assuming developers continue not to give a hoot.