Southwest residents are being alerted to be mindful of the endangered burrowing owl, returning from Texas and Mexico where they spend the winter months.

Burrowing owls can't dig their own burrows so they nest in the abandoned burrows of badgers, foxes, and gophers on native grasslands mainly in southern Sask. and the southwest.

Grace Pidborchynski, habitat stewardship coordinator for Operation Burrowing Owl at Nature Saskatchewan, noted that the decline of these birds is largely due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and vehicle collisions. 

"It's estimated that there are as low as 270 breeding burrowing owls throughout Canada," she said. "They're kind of the most endangered bird species in the grasslands and they're really important."

These tiny owls stand only nine inches tall, sporting a round head with white eyebrows and yellow eyes.

"Another feature to look out for is their characteristic, long, featherless legs," said Pidborchynski. "This gives the appearance that they're kind of walking on stilts." 

Additionally, this species works as exceptional pest control, hunting anything small enough to catch. A burrowing owl family can consume around 7, 000 grasshoppers and 1, 800 rodents in one summer.

Anyone who comes across a burrowing owl is advised to call Nature Saskatchewan's HOOT line at +1 (800) 667 - 4668 or email Grace Pidborchynski at and all personal information of the caller and landowner is confidential.

"Thank you to our stewards, landholders, and land managers who are part of all our programs," she added. "They're our eyes and ears out there since we can't always be outside and get to every location, so without their help, the recovery and conservation of this little owl wouldn't be possible."