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Petite Owl Not Commonly Found In L.A. Shows Up At School Near MacArthur Park

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A school near MacArthur Park is currently home to a highly unlikely visitor. A burrowing owl has been spotted at Esperanza Elementary School in a tree near a breezeway on the school's second floor, according to SoCal Wild. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Owls are unmistakable birds, and that goes double for a long-legged owl that hunts on the ground during the day. Burrowing Owls are small, sandy colored owls with bright-yellow eyes. They live underground in burrows they've dug themselves or taken over from a prairie dog, ground squirrel, or tortoise. They live in grasslands, deserts, and other open habitats, where they hunt mainly insects and rodents. Their numbers have declined sharply with human alteration of their habitat and the decline of prairie dogs and ground squirrels.

Biologist Dan Cooper told SoCal Wild that inner city wintering birds might use vents or parking structures instead of burrows, and may feed on mice and rats. The burrowing owl is not common in L.A., and Cooper said the only nesting burrowing owls that can be found in Southern California outside of the desert are "a handful on Otay Mesa east of San Diego, in remaining agricultural lands near Chino, and in the San Jacinto Valley near Hemet."

Esperanza recently pulled up asphalt and planted native trees and plants with the aid of LA Audobon and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, giving students the chance to spend time in nature. Brad Rumble, the principal of the school, said that most of the students live in apartments and so it's been great for them to spend time outdoors at school, and the owl has given them more opportunities to enjoy nature.

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"We have seven kindergarten classes that line up in the mornings right under the tree it's in," he told SoCal Wild. "We have a citizen science bulletin board and kids add their observations to it daily."