Education

Downtown Owls at Rio Salado

Imperiled Burrowing Owls bring education and citizen science to Phoenix

Burrowing Owls. Photo: Donna Williams Malone/Great Backyard Bird Count

Education, science, and on-the-ground bird conservation all come together at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center in downtown Phoenix.

A central focus of the center’s work is the Burrowing Owl, a popular but declining species that uses mammal burrows for its homes. Together with Toyota TogetherGreen and local partner Wild At Heart, the center has led an effort to build hundreds of artificial burrows for the owls in nearby open land along the Salt River. The work has been done by volunteers, including a number of high school clubs, corporate volunteer groups, and individuals and families from the community. Birds at risk from land development elsewhere in Arizona were captured and released in the area, and have taken up residence in the constructed burrows.

In addition to all the learning that has taken place during the work projects, teachers can connect online to a powerful mapping program that lets their students explore current data about the range, habitat requirements, and life history of Burrowing Owls. They can even use the maps to predict how the distribution of Burrowing Owls might respond to climate change, and to suggest ways that humans can help the species survive.

The results of the Downtown Owls project: more owls, expanded research, and a lot of students who care about the birds, understand them more fully, and are invested in their future.

To learn more, visit this link.