What is MBORP?

The Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program is a reintroduction, research, and educational organization that was established in 2010 to address the on-going decline of Burrowing Owls in southwestern Manitoba. The program began by reintroducing a small number of owl pairs in 2010 with cooperation from private landowners in southwestern Manitoba.


What is a Reintroduction?

Re-introducing species to places where they formally occurred.


Where did MBORP's "Founding" owls come from?

The first or "founding" Burrowing Owl pairs that were released in 2010 were from wild nests in southwestern Manitoba, unrelated owls from The Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, Alberta, and hatch-year owls born at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2009. These 10 owls (5 pairs) and were released in southwestern Manitoba for the first reintroduction of Burrowing Owls in Manitoba since 1996.

The wild population of Burrowing Owls has declined steeply and steadily since the early 1980's in Manitoba. The species is listed both provincially and federally as "Endangered"  throughout their range in western Canada.  In recent seasons (2009-2016), only 8 pairs and 18 individual owls have been observed or reported during the breeding season in Manitoba. In 2010 and 2011, select young were removed from wild nests. These wild young were paired with both founding owls and founding owls offspring in subsequent seasons to increase genetic diversity in MBORP's breeding program.


What are we doing?

Our program has three main goals: reintroduction, research and education.


1) Reintroductions: We want to increase MB Burrowing Owl populations through re-introductions. Our goal would be to have a healthy, self-sustaining, population of Burrowing Owls in Manitoba at approximately 23-25 pairs.

2) Research: We are collecting data from both wild and captive-release owls on:

  • Productivity relating to clutch size
  • Hatching success
  • Recruitment rate (Young of the year survival)
  • Foraging of males during post hatch
  • Home range size
  • Diet/Prey use
  • Dispersal
  • Mortality
  • Return rates/survival
  • Other behaviours


This data will be used to better understand limitations of both populations (wild and captive-released) going forward and can contribute to updates for recovery strategies, actions plans, and other research on Burrowing Owl throughout their range.


3) Education: We want to increase public awareness about Burrowing Owls and grassland conservation by specifically targeting landowners with suitable habitat (i.e., open grassland pasture) to maintain, enhance, and improve their land for Burrowing Owls and other grassland species at risk. We meet with landowners one-on-one to discuss our voluntary landowners stewardship program which includes a short survey on their knowledge of their land (i.e., historical Burrowing Owl sightings, other grassland bird sightings) and ways to protect Burrowing Owl nests and increase nest success (i.e., installation of artificial nest burrows).


How is MBORP different from any other reintroduction program for Burrowing Owls in Canada?

Our program is unique in several ways.

  • MBORP only release pairs of owls that have successfully nested and fledged young. Fledged means young who have ability to fly and are considered independent from their parents at approximately 6 weeks of age. By releasing only successful breeding pairs, we hope to increase nest-site philopatry, which is the tendency of an adult to return to same area to breed where they did the year previous. This is known to increase with age and breeding success and would increase the returning population in future breeding seasons.
  • We also "hold back" some young from both wild and captive-released broods. We call this "brood reduction" and this is done to promote the survival of all young in nests. Benefits to brood survival: less competition for food for young owls remaining in the wild which would increase the young owls fitness prior to migration; and avoidance of juvenile mortality during first year migration as young owls removed from broods are overwintered at the Assiniboine Park Zoo and reintroduced in pairs in the following breeding season.
  • MBORP pairs are released after they have a nest of >3 eggs. Releasing pairs after nest establishment encourages a pair-bond, reduces nest abandonment, and overall pairs produce, hatch, and fledge more young.
  • All nests are monitored daily by MBORP staff and nest site burrow entrances are monitored 24 hours a day with Reconyx wildlife cameras.
  • All captive-release nests are provided with a food supplement of mice daily until young emerge from the burrow at approximately two weeks of age. This supplement increases survival of both adults and young.



Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program

(204) 807-4668 (HOOT)


© 2017 Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program