The 13th Annual Burrowing Owl Festival is coming up on Saturday, February 28 from 10 am-4 pm at the Rotary Park in Cape Coral sponsored by Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife and Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department. Habitat destruction and natural predators have led the Florida Fish and Wildlife to label them a “special concern.” The festival raises money and public awareness for maintenance of the owls’ burrows. Last year, 2,000 people attended the 1-day festival. Highlights include lectures about the Burrowing Owl, nature hikes to observe the habitats and wildlife at Rotary Park, guided bus tours, an interactive butterfly tent exhibit, various speakers, local artists selling arts and crafts, and several food vendors.
Cape Coral is the 2nd largest city in Florida after Jacksonville, but the #1 city for the largest population of the Burrowing Owl in the state. It is one of Cape Coral’s natural resource treasures. The Burrowing Owl is a distinct Florida species, with an estimated 1,000 nesting pair. The Burrowing Owl is one of the smallest of the owl species at 7.5-11 inches tall and 5-8.5 ounces and the only owl worldwide that lives underground. In Florida, the Burrowing Owl digs its own burrows. During nesting season (February through July), it is fascinating to see the owls because the male stands guard over the burrow for hours at a time, while the female owl is in the burrow taking care of the young chicks or eggs.
Birders and photographers come from all over the world to witness and photograph these attractive little birds. One of the main locations to spot the Burrowing Owls used to be at the Cape Coral Library, but too much human activity resulted in the owls searching for another quieter area. The Burrowing Owls in Cape Coral do not migrate, unlike other species. They remain all year but sometimes hide in the summer months to escape the hot sun and heat. For the best time to spot the owls, it is during January through June, and to see the chicks, in late April through June. There is a guided tour bus that operates through the Rotary Park Environment Center to see the Burrowing Owls and other wildlife of Cape Coral. The unique thing about this species of owl is that they are out during the day, unlike other owls.