Join BirdNote tomorrow, November 30th!
Illustrator David Sibley and actor H. Jon Benjamin will face off in the bird illustration battle of the century during BirdNote's Year-end Celebration and Auction!
The Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon, a landscape dotted with a thousand concrete bunkers, may not look like an ideal haven for birds. But the site has taken on a new life — as a luxury subdivision for Burrowing Owls. That’s thanks in part to David H. Johnson, the founder of the Global Owl Project, who helped create Burrowing Owl “condos” by burying plastic buckets at the site.
An Unlikely Burrowing Owl Boomtown
Written by Jonathan Feakins
This is BirdNote.
The Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon, a landscape dotted with a thousand concrete bunkers, may not look like an ideal haven for birds. It’s a place where the military stored nerve gas, now decommissioned. But the site has taken on a new life — as a luxury subdivision for Burrowing Owls.
[Burrowing Owl call]
Burrowing Owls don’t actually burrow themselves, instead moving into lairs abandoned by other creatures, like badgers. In 1969, when the military attempted to reduce the local coyote population, they ended up removing local badgers as well. The local owls suffered a housing crash, and by 2007, there were just three or four breeding pairs.
Because Burrowing Owls actually enjoy living in dense neighborhoods, David H. Johnson — the founder of the Global Owl Project — began burying five-gallon buckets on the site, as ready-made owl condos. Feathered tenants quickly moved in. And each time Johnson checked the buckets for owl chicks, protective adults would scream like rattlesnakes.
[Burrowing Owl “rattlesnake” call]
As of June 2021, ninety-two artificial burrows hosted sixty-two mating pairs, and have been the birthplace of over two and a half thousand chicks. Unlikely as it may seem, this former depot is now a Burrowing Owl boomtown.
[Burrowing Owl call]
For BirdNote, I’m Ariana Remmel.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Editor: Jazzi Johnson
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Burrowing Owl ML188805 recorded by Bob McGuire, and Burrowing Owl ML138648 recorded by Greg Clark.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2023 BirdNote June 2023
Narrator: Ariana Remmel
ID# BUOW-05-2023-06-08 BUOW-05