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Burrowing Owl Protection

Recent estimates by the Institute for Bird Populations suggest that the Burrowing Owl is declining throughout the state. The San Francisco Bay Area, historically one of four primary Burrowing Owl nesting areas in California, has suffered steep population declines in recent years. Once a common sight in the Bay Area, the number of these owls has now declined to only forty pairs.

Our Environmental Advocate, Shani Kleinhaus, and the Environmental Action Committee have been diligently advocating for the preservation, restoration and enhancement of the Burrowing Owl and its habitat in our cities along the bay.

Watch our award-winning Burrowing Owl documentary.

San Jose efforts

San Jose/Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility (RWF) Burrowing Owl habitat. SCVAS's hard work in advocating for Burrowing Owls has again proven successful when in 2013 as part of the Regional Wastewater Facility (RWF, previously known as WPCP) Master Plan, the City of San Jose allocated 180 acres for Burrowing Owl habitat at the RWF buffer lands.

In March 2014, San Jose's Environmental Services Department (ESD) deepened a long-standing partnership with SCVAS and granted us three-year funding for improving owl habitat on the 180 acres and monitoring owl population on the entire buffer lands area.

The City's commitment to these owls is now confirmed on San Jose's official website, San José gives a "hoot"! Videos and photographs of the owls, collected by remote cameras and sorted by SCVAS, are posted on San Jose's flickr photostream.

Starting in 2011 prior to the approval of the RWF Master Plan, San Jose's ESD and SCVAS partnered to monitor and improve owl habitat on the RWF buffer lands. Now the relationship is more formalized with a grant that allowed SCVAS to hire a Burrowing Owl Project Manager, Josh McCluskey. Josh implements conservation actions on the site with SCVAS volunteers and students from San Jose State University and De Anza College.

San Jose's ESD and SCVAS habitat improvements are showing great results as the number of owls steadily increases (from two in 2012 to 40 in 2014!). This is the only location in Santa Clara Valley that has an increasing Burrowing Owl population making San Jose and SCVAS very proud!

Over the next two years SCVAS and San Jose's ESD will continue to implement habitat enhancements and develop management practices that hope to improve the current successes. If you wish to volunteer for our monthly efforts that typically take place the first Saturday of the month, send an email to Josh McCluskey at

Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). SCVAS is helping to implement the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan.

Habitat monitoring. The San Jose Municipal Code restricts discing, plowing, or breaking soil on any property greater than two acres. These activities destroy existing nests and potential nesting sites. While these activities are prohibited, the city does not possess the resources to monitor adherence to this policy. SCVAS volunteers monitor and report violations to the city, which greatly reduce violations.

Mountain View efforts

Preservation Plan. SCVAS continues to work with the City of Mountain View to implement the Shoreline Burrowing Owl Preservation Plan to increase the number of owls at the Shoreline Park. This plan, adopted in 2012, has a revolutionary approach to the preservation of this vulnerable species that can be adopted as a model for other cities. Read articles about this plan written in March-April 2012: Mountain View council signals support for Shoreline owl preserve from the San Jose Mercury News, plus New hope for city's burrowing owls and Owls have friends at City Hall both from the Mountain View Voice.

New Burrowing Owl habitat in Mountain View
New Burrowing Owl habitat created in Mountain View

Habitat Creation. SCVAS, the City of Mountain View, and students of San Jose State University restored Burrowing Owl habitat at Shoreline Park. This work was initiated with support from the Audubon/Toyota TogetherGreen Initiative.


Updated July 2014

Burrowing Owl © Tom Grey
Help Burrowing Owls © Tom Grey

How you can help!

• SCVAS organized the Burrowing Owl Advocates to preserve and enhance local burrowing owl populations. Contact our SCVAS Environmental Advocate at to volunteer and speak or write to advocate the land protection, monitor owl populations, and educate the public about the plight of the Burrowing Owl.

• You can help with these or other projects that interest you by becoming a Volunteer for Conservation. We have many ways that you can help from simply speaking out as part of our Conservation Action Alert Network to joining our Environmental Action Committee (EAC).

• Make a tax-deductible donation to support this and other local conservation efforts.

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