Once common throughout southwestern Manitoba and occurring as far east as Winnipeg and north to Swan River, Manitoba’s burrowing owl populations have undergone a rather steep and continuous decline since the 1930's. A 1978 estimate placed Manitoba’s population at 110 pairs, but surveys from 1982 to 1984 revealed further declines from 76 to 35 known nesting pairs. Extensive management efforts were undertaken during the late 1980s and early 1990s, including increased public awareness, protecting critical nesting areas, providing safer artificial nest burrows and re-introductions. But faced with reduced nesting success due to several wet, cool summers and a multitude of other limiting factors, populations continued to decline.
In most years from 1997 through 2002, there have been 0-3 known nesting pairs in the province. Although apparently suitable habitat remains and many historic nesting sites remain virtually unchanged, many experts feel that the burrowing owl may not be able to cope with immense alteration of the grassland ecosystem that has occurred throughout North America during the 20th century. These alterations have not only resulted in reduced nesting success and increased mortality on the nesting grounds, but have affected survival of adults and young during migration and on the wintering range. Currently considered Endangered under the Manitoba Endangered Species Act, the burrowing owl is on the brink of becoming extirpated in this province and throughout the Canadian prairies.
For more information on the burrowing owl view the Manitoba's Species at Risk brochure (PDF document, 294 KB).