Population status

Burrowing Owl
(Athene cunicularia)

Targeted surveys of Burrowing Owls in Canada provide reliable information on population status for this species (COSEWIC 2006d). However, because the species has become so rare, all but two monitoring projects have been discontinued (COSEWIC 2017a). Populations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which constitute the majority of the national population, decreased by about 90% in the 1990s, and by another 45% and 76%, respectively, between 2005–2015 (COSEWIC 2017a). Though the populations in British Columbia and Manitoba were considered to be extirpated around 1980 and 1990, respectively, a small number of individuals has been counted in these provinces thanks to captive breeding and reintroduction programs (see the British Columbia Breeding Bird Atlas (Chutter 2015) and Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas (Artuso et al. 2018) distribution maps on this species' overview page). Overall, the total estimated Canadian population has decreased from about 800–1600 birds (COSEWIC 2006d) to about 270 birds (COSEWIC 2017a) over an 11-year period. The national population goal for the Burrowing Owl is taken from the Recovery Strategy (Environment Canada 2012); the species is currently below the lowest acceptable level relative to that goal (i.e., a self-perpetuating, well-distributed population of at least 3000 breeding pairs).


Population goal and acceptable levels of variation

Species/groupGoalLower levelUpper level
Burrowing OwlLong-term recovery goal (SARA)Equal to goalNot applicable