The Dutch Caribbean islands are renowned for their rich and unique biodiversity, and for good reason. The Aruban Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia arubensis), known locally as Shoco, is an endemic sub-species of burrowing owl that occurs only on Aruba.
This small, buffy-colored owl is unmistakable because of its large, round yellow eyes, prominent whitish eyebrows and unusually long grey legs. Burrowing Owls get their common name from their unusual habit of nesting underground in already dug-out burrows, although they are known to occasionally dig out their own.
When the breeding season is over, the owls continue to use the borrows to rest during the day. Unlike most owl species, Burrowing Owls are often active during the day, although they hunt for food at night. Aruban Burrowing Owls are typically seen sitting in small family groups in areas of cactus scrub or dry forest.
Sadly, they are seen less and less frequently. The Shoco’s population has greatly diminished in the last few decades and is now endangered, with estimates of less than 200 pairs remaining. Threats include over-development and the invasive boa constrictor. While the owl is not currently protected on Aruba, many conservation efforts are underway to ensure that it does not go extinct.
The Aruba Birdlife Conservation foundation has been at the heart of conservation efforts. The foundation is currently campaigning for the Aruban Burrowing Owl to be nominated as Aruba’s National Bird, and has declared 2012 to be the year of the Shoco. The island’s terrestrial protected area, Arikok National Park, is an important refuge where the population can recover. Park staff are actively involved in conservation efforts and are currently monitoring the owl’s population within the protected area.
Aruban Burrowing Owl – Detail Page