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Baby owlets are the new 'Who's Who' of Escondido bird ranch

Burrowing Owls are spreading their wings and wildlife awareness at Avian Behavior International Bird Ranch.

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Baby owlets are spreading their wings and awareness about the beauty of birds. In this Zevely Zone, I met the new 'Who's Who' of Escondido. 

Baby Burrowing Owls have arrived and rolling out the red carpet is an animal lover you have to meet. Hillary Hankey says no matter where you live in San Diego County, look around and you'll see nature. 

As a child, Hillary was the definition of a country mouse stuck in a big city. "Houston, Texas. Right in the middle," she said. "I just wanted to get out and you know pretend that nature went on forever." 

Hillary migrated west to Escondido where she opened Avian Behavior International in 2013. It's a twenty-acre bird training ranch.

Credit: Avian Behavior International

"We've got hawks, owls, ravens, and toucans, an eagle, falcons, cranes, vultures. We have parrots," said Hillary about a ranch that isn't just for the birds. "This is Pepper and this is Frankie. They love their scratches," said Hillary while introducing me to the rest of her animal family. "First we will start with the goats, donkeys and pigs," said Hillary who hopes you'll visit sometime soon because she has a couple of new birds stealing the show. "We do. We have two young burrowing owls," said Hillary. They are cute, tiny and a species of special concern.

Credit: Avian Behavior International

With their big, round yellow eyes and tiny fluffy bodies, these adorable baby owls are more than just cute pets to fawn over. The number of burrowing owls have been declining for decades, due primarily to conversion of its grassland habitat. 

The owl is a California Species of Special Concern, has been virtually eliminated in some areas, and has even been the subject of a California Endangered Species Act listing proposal.

Credit: Avian Behavior International

Just a few days ago, Hillary returned from Maryland with these owlets. The ambassador animals will encourage us all to co-exist with wildlife. “Having these baby owls under our care is an honor and great responsibility.” said Hillary. “It is our goal with these birds to help raise money for conservation efforts. We will be offering virtual visits to raise money for HawkWatch, a nonprofit that focuses on environmental conservation, with limited slots that will feature a HawkWatch biologist for an extra donation."

Credit: Avian Behavior International

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These owls are growing increasingly endangered by famers and developers because they burrow in the ground. "No, they are not up in a nest," said Hillary. If you think owls have big eyes, you should see Hillary's light up when she talks about nature. She wants every person to think about how they share this planet with animals. "The biggest thing they can do is just notice the wildlife around them," said Hillary. "Just take a look, crack a book if you want to, I don't even care just notice the animals and the sounds that they make." I asked Hillary if she is ever going back to Houston? "Never, never, ha, ha, ha," she laughed.  

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Avian Behavior is a bird ranch, training center, and permaculture farm.  The center was founded to use the most progressive and contemporary positive reinforcement techniques to bridge the art of training birds with the science of animal behavior. Providing in person experiences, workshops, and online training, ABI’s mission is to harness humankind’s inherent fascination with birds to illustrate the peril of the disappearing natural world and inspire conservation action.

Book your experience with the baby burrowing owls by clicking here. 

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