Federal biologists working to find habitat for threatened owl species

Related Story

There are some birds in the Rio Grande Valley that aren't too hard to find — and there are some birds in the Valley that are fun to find.

Tiffany Kersten of Ninja Birding Tours racked up a record of spotting birds around the world. 

With her Mission-based business, Kersten has led people to rare finds — including the latest Valley bird to receive federal protection.

The super tiny subspecies called the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl is now federally listed as threatened under the endangered species act.

Hundreds are expected to live in this area.

Kersten spotted a pygmy owl with a tour group on the King Ranch, where it and the surrounding area are now considered the most likely home for the remaining members of that subspecies.

“About 15, 20 years ago, there was a big flood, and those areas were underwater for a few months,” Kersten explained. “And my guess is it probably decimated the small mammal population. They eat a lot of small rodents, and we no longer see them really in many of the public nature sites."

The Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl are in Texas and Arizona, with more in Mexico. Federal biologists want to preserve the remaining U.S. population, and evaluating how much space the species needs to survive and recover.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Scott Richardson has been studying the owl for nearly 30 years. He's part of a group that will determine the areas in the Valley that will be considered the owl's critical habitat.

They're primarily looking at the areas around king ranch, which provide the oak forests the owls prefer. 

Advocates say they hope this new federal protection will make a difference.

Watch the video above for the full story. 


7 Days