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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Translocate owls Bird Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • A small study from New Zealand found that translocating two male boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae allowed the establishment of a small population, when they interbred with the last remaining Norfolk Island boobook N. n. undulata
  • A replicated study in the USA found high survival amongst burrowing owls Athene cunicularia translocated as juveniles, although no breeding was recorded and all birds left the release site and were not seen again.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A study on Norfolk Island, Australia (Olsen 1996), found that the last remaining Norfolk Island boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae undulata (a female) paired with one of two male boobooks N. n. novaeseelandiae introduced from New Zealand in 1987 (the other disappeared shortly after release). The pair attempted unsuccessfully to breed in 1988 and 1991-3 but succeeded in 1989 and 1990, and fledged a total of four young. Two of these subsequently bred successfully themselves in 1993 and 1994, increasing the population to eleven birds, all alive in 1995.



A replicated study reviewing a reintroduction programme in Minnesota, USA (Martell et al. 2001), found that only eight of 105 (8%) burrowing owl Athene cunicularia juveniles translocated from South Dakota to Minnesota in 1986-90 were confirmed mortalities, with all other birds seen well past fledging age. However, no birds were seen after leaving the vicinity of the release site and no successful breeding attempts were recorded between 1992 and 1998. Birds were released at prairie sites in the species’ former range using ‘hacking pens’ (see ‘Release captive-bred individuals into the wild to restore or augment wild populations’) and were fed for 33 days after release. In addition, artificial burrows were used to reduce predation chances and adult owls used as ‘parental models’.


Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2019) Bird Conservation. Pages 141-290 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.