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NMSU Researchers Need Help Locating Burrowing Owls

LAS CRUCES -- New Mexico State University wildlife researchers are on the lookout for small, brown, football-shaped burrowing owls in both urban and rural settings between Las Cruces and El Paso.

Daniele Berardelli, a wildlife graduate student, and Martha Desmond, an ornithologist with NMSU's fishery and wildlife sciences department, plan to study the owls. They want to compare nesting strategies in urban versus naive habitats. They'd like to find out why some birds chose to stay in the area during the winter and others move farther south.

The 9-inch owls, which are on the move this time of year, might be found near drainage pipes or dirt embankments. They are often found alongside rock squirrels and are most likely to be seen at dawn and dusk.

Throughout the nest two years, Berardelli plans to observe nesting sites weekly and even monitor burrows with a camera system.

The researchers are hoping the public can help locate possible burrowing owl nesting sites for the study. "We think we'll be able to get some help because people tend to notice the odd-looking bird," Desmond said.

To help out, contact Berardelli by phone at (505)644-2158 or by e-mail at dgberardelli@hotmail.com.