Rare Owl Visits NB
The Burrowing Owl is very rare here. Only one has been recorded in the past, being seen at Fort Beausejour on 21 and 26 June 1978 and later confirmed from feathers found at the site. The normal range of this species is the grasslands of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, western United States and its wintering grounds in southwestern US and Mexico. There is also a permanent population in central and southern Florida.
So why/how is this bird here? There are two subspecies of this owl. The western subspecies is hypugaea and the Florida subspecies is floridana. The subspecies have a slight difference in appearance and the one here is the western subspecies (hypugaea). The western subspecies is lighter in colour with buffy-coloured spots and the Florida subspecies is darker with white spots. The western population is larger so the probability of a bird arriving from the west is greater than one arriving from Florida. Vagrants do sometimes appear in spring and fall in southern Ontario, southern Quebec, Maine and North Carolina. So, having one arrive here is rare indeed. Whether this bird actually flew here or arrived on a boat or a truck is up for speculation.
The population numbers of this species is greatly reduced in the north mainly due to the extermination of its prime prey, prairie dogs. It is also suseptible to pesticide use and habitat loss. Declines continue due to the conversion of prairie to intensive agriculture.