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Burrowing Owl Festival: Annual ode to the Cape’s official bird Saturday

By Staff | Feb 26, 2016

Marking its 14th year, Cape Coral’s Annual Burrowing Owl Festival will take place Saturday.

Hosted by the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rotary Park Environmental Center, at 5505 Rose Garden Road.

Admission is a $5 suggested donation; children ages 16 and under are free.

Honey Phillips, vice president of the Friends of Wildlife, explained that the festival helps to raise awareness about the burrowing owl – the Cape’s official bird – especially during this time of year.

“This is the kick off of the breeding season for the burrowing owl,” she said.

The event also serves as a fundraiser for the organization.

“We help monitor the (burrowing owl) nests in Cape Coral,” Phillips said, noting that it costs money to do so. “We have volunteers that go out and stake the burrows, then weed whack them every week.”

The proceeds also fund environmental education programs in the schools, informational handouts and brochures and, for the first time, research by Florida Gulf Coast University on the burrowing owl.

“We also give out scholarships to high school students every year,” she said.

“It all goes to good things,” Phillips added.

Organizers estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 people attend the festival every year.

The event will kick off with the announcement of the winners of the student wildlife contest. First, second and third places will be awarded in the categories of elementary, middle and high school.

“We do a little presentation for the kids, and they get their prizes,” she said.

There will be wildlife presentations throughout the day, like photographer Dan Tudor on “Burrowing Owl Moments” and Dr. John Herman, from FGCU, on “Burrowing Owls and Gopher Tortoises.” There will also be a butterfly presentation and free tours of a butterfly house, with a sale of butterfly plants.

“We also have lots of vendors from other local natural areas,” Phillips said, adding that the representative will discuss what their preserves and parks have to offer visitors.

There will be live animals on display, such as birds of prey and reptiles.

“We have a children’s corner, where they can make some wildlife-related crafts,” she said.

The activities are free for youth of all ages.

For those interested, the festival will feature an owl burrow maintenance demonstration, as well as a demonstration for homeowners on how they can set up a “starter burrow” on their own property.

“If you want to attract burrowing owls to your yard, we’ll show you how,” Phillips said.

For a $5 suggested donation, attendees can enjoy a guided owl burrow bus tour.

“We have bus tours that go out to local burrows,” she said.

People can sign up for the tour at the event.

“They have multiple tours throughout the day,” Phillips said.

To raise additional funds, a silent auction will be held at the festival. The items range from artwork donated by local artists, to gift certificates donated by local businesses. The auction will end at 1 p.m.

“We have a lot of really good items to bid on,” she said.

Food and drinks will be available for sale.

“For the first time, the Rotarians will be serving beer,” Phillips added.

For more information, visit online: www.ccfriendsofwildlife.org or call (239) 549-5606.