Burrowing owls that make their home in the shrub steppe habitat around Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station in Richland got a hand with spring cleaning, courtesy members of Sagebrush Montessori School’s Roots & Shoots Ecology Club.
The Richland students joined Energy Northwest’s environmental services department in February to clean and repair the 18 artificial burrows that act as a home for the small, migratory owls, which are listed as a species of greatest conservation need in Washington.
The two-room burrows were installed in 2012 to provide habitat for the small owls, which typically make homes in holes left by ground squirrels, prairie dogs, foxes, badgers and coyotes. Energy Northwest teamed with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to create buried habitat for the birds.
Each set of burrows includes a room for nesting and another to store their food supplies, as well as a low perch where the owls can watch for predators. The burrows are fashioned from 55-gallon drums, with five-gallon buckets serving as a maintenance hatch.
The owls access the burrows through a six-inch tube.
Energy Northwest said the artificial burrows have been a success, with at least two used by owls that have returned to the site each year.
The cleanout project gave the Montessori students a chance to explore shrub steppe habitat and see wildlife that inhabits the areas north of Richland.
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