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Owl town

By Staff | Feb 19, 2013

The 11th-annual Burrowing Owl Festival, presented by the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, is coming to Rotary Park in Cape Coral on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And if this year’s event is like last year’s, it’s sure to attract many fans of what is the official city bird.

Cape Coral is home to the state’s largest population of the burrowing owl, and is one of the city’s natural resource treasures.

“This is a protected species and Cape Coral has the largest population of burrowing owls in the world,” said Pascha Donaldson of the CCFW.

Florida Fish and Wildlife has given them the status of special concern, as habitat destruction and predators have impacted the species.

The CCFW has been looking after these birds for more than a decade, and began holding the festival to raise money and increase public awareness and for maintenance of their burrows.

And the city itself had something to do with it.

“The city was coming with its lawnmowers and mowing over the burrows, so it was in violation of the Federal Migratory Bird Act,” Donaldson said. “We had some people go to City Council and ask if we could mark them so they wouldn’t hit them.”

The festival has gained in popularity annually, attracting more than 2,000 people last year for the one-day event.

Highlights of the festival include lectures by guest speakers about the owl and other nature-related topics, nature hikes to observe the varied habitats and wildlife at Rotary Park, guided bus tours to observe the owl’s habitat, a butterfly tour and numerous local artists showing and selling nature-related work.

There will also be demonstrations on how to install a starter burrow on your property in the hopes of attracting a burrowing owl to your lawn.

And, of course, the burrowing owl, albeit injured, will be exhibited courtesy of the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Donaldson said.

There will also be food, hands-on activities for the kids in the Children’s Corner, a K-9 demonstration held by the Cape Coral Police Department and a fire truck, compliments of the Cape Fire Department.

The burrowing owl is a tiny, long-legged bird found throughout grasslands, ranges, agricultural areas and other open areas with low vegetation of North and South America.

There is a $5 donation suggested and children under 16 are admitted free. There is also free parking.