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Burrowing Owls Thrive on Marco Island, Florida



Along the busiest road on Marco Island, a small owl no bigger than a child’s shoe buried itself head-first into the ground and kicked up a tuft of sand under a low-rising sun.

It stopped digging after a few seconds and rested upright, oblivious to the traffic rushing by a few feet away. The drivers, it seemed, were oblivious to it.

A burrowing owl, with multiple colored bands around its legs, scans its surroundings outside of its burrow Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Marco Island. Burrowing owls are quickly becoming endangered across Florida. But not on Marco Island. There the shin-high mounds that mark the entrances to 6-foot-long burrows the owls painstakingly dig can be found in just about every other vacant lot and sandy field. The owls seem at home on Marco just feet away from bicycles and cars rolling by. In a pinch, the small birds can find shelter in drainage pipes, front porches and piles of debris.

Researchers hope to learn whether the owls will use man-made "starter burrows" in quiet corners of front and backyards throughout the island. If the owls use the burrows on developed lots, biologists hope to see whether whatever circumstances are working for Marco Island can be copied in other parts of the state. The best sign for the future of the Florida burrowing owl is how adaptable it has proved to be to development that already has happened, said Allison Smith, a researcher with the University of Florida. Smith is working with volunteers and Audubon of the Western Everglades to band the owls and draw blood samples this nesting season.

Marco Island is home to the diminutive burrowing owl, and so is Nova Homes of South Florida. Nova Homes takes every precaution to protect the owl in its habitat. For more information on how to build on Marco Island and not disturb the burrowing owl contact Nick Cornwell at 239.776.5076 or BuildNow@NovaHomesBuilder.com

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