Marking its 12th year, the annual Burrowing Owl Festival will take place Saturday in Cape Coral.
Hosted by the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, the event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rotary Park Environmental Center. Admission is a $5 requested donation; children 16 and under are free.
Susan Porreca, president of the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, said the festival helps to raise awareness about the burrowing owl - the city's official bird - and other local wildlife.
A pair of burrowing owls.
"They can expect to learn a lot about nature and wildlife," she said of attendees.
Wildlife exhibitors will be on hand, including an appearance with a live bald eagle, and educational programs will be set up inside and outside of the center. Nature hikes to observe the varied habitats and wildlife at the park are planned, as well as guided bus tours to observe the burrowing owl habitats.
"They'll be taken to local burrowing owl burrows to see live owls," Porreca said of the tours.
If you go
12th annual Burrowing Owl Festival
Saturday, Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Rotary Park Environmental Center,
5505 Rose Garden Road
Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife
Florida Burrowing Owl Facts
n Cape Coral has the largest population in the state, with an estimated 1,000 nesting pairs.
n One of the smallest owls, it weighs 5 to 8-1/2 ounces, with a height of 7-1/2 to 11 inches.
n Of the 171 species of owls identified worldwide, it is the only one that lives underground.
n Unlike the Western species of the owl, Florida burrowing owls dig their own burrows.
n Cape Coral has upward of an estimated 2,500 burrows, but not all are actively being used.
n While some of the Western species migrate, the burrowing owls in Cape Coral do not.
n The best time to see the owls is January through June, or April through June for the chicks.
Source: Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife
Participants will learn about the owls and their nesting habits, among other things.
The cost is $5 per person, and the tours depart at 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.
People can sign up at the festival, and early registration is recommended as the spots go quickly.
For the first time this year, the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife is offering a photographer bus tour before the event. The tour will meet at 7:15 a.m. at the park and depart at 7:30 a.m. Participants will ride in an air-conditioned bus with a knowledgeable tour guide and expert in wildlife photography.
"They'll learn about various wildlife," she said, citing scrub jays, burrowing owls and nesting eagles, even manatees at Sirenia Vista Park. "It's getting to be very popular, so we thought we'd offer that."
Participants are encouraged to wear closed-toe shoes and bring their cameras.
"They'll be able to get out of the bus," Porreca said.
The cost is $25 per person and spaces are limited to 15. As of Thursday, six seats remained.
At the festival, there will be free tours through the live butterfly house, and dozens of area artists will have nature- and wildlife-related arts and crafts available. Food and drink vendors will be on site.
"There's a free Kids Arts and Crafts Corner," she said.
There will be presentations for property owners on how to install a starter burrow on their property, as well as a Cape police K-9 demonstration. The Cape fire department will have a fire truck on scene.
"Proceeds go to the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife for our educational programs and burrow maintenance," Porreca said, noting that it is a fun-filled family event for all ages.
"You get to see all the wildlife up close and personnel," she said. "It's a great fun day."
Last year, approximately 2,500 people turned out for the festival.
"Each year, we seem to be getting more and more," Porreca said of the attendance number.
"There's a lot of families that come," she said. "Our goal is to just keep growing."
To register for the photographer bus tour or for more information, call the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife at (239) 980-2593 and pay by credit card over the telephone. People can also visit online at: www.ccfriendsofwildlife.org to sign up for the photographer bus tour and then pay using PayPal.
For information on the annual Burrowing Owl Festival, visit: www.ccfriendsofwildlife.org.