If you’re anywhere near Los Angeles International Airport, you might think these feathery neighbors are a real hoot.
According to The Washington Post, a group of rare owls are living in a nature preserve near LAX. The group of 10 burrowing owls are the largest group of their species to be seen at LAX Dunes Preserve in the last 40 years, scientists claim.
The owls may be taking up permanent residence thanks to recent restoration work that has turned the former beachfront neighborhood into a thriving, 300-acre natural preserve, according to NBC Los Angeles.
“For wintering owls, this tiny chunk of land has become priceless coastal real estate,” Pete Bloom, a biologist and avian expert, told the Los Angeles Times.
It’s not uncommon for animals to make homes near the undeveloped areas near airports. For instance, alligators live in a pond near Orlando International Airport, and a number of animals including caribou, bears and especially seals have been spotted at Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport in Utqiagvik, Alaska. These animal neighbors can sometimes cause issues when they wander out onto runways.
But these burrowing owls are thriving in an area that is strictly off-limits to people, according to NBC Los Angeles. In addition to the owls, there are about 900 other animal and plant species that call the dunes home, including El Segundo blue butterflies and native evening primrose.
“For biologists, the preserve has become an ecological hot spot sandwiched between a popular beach and the third-busiest airport in the nation. We aim to make sure things stay that way,” said Robert Fisher, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist to the Associated Press.
According to the Los Angeles Times, scientists are planning to propose reintroducing certain species of animals that used to live on the dunes over 100 years ago. Until that happens, nonprofit organizations are continuing to work to fully restore the area.