NORTHERN PYGMY OWL
© KURT LINDSAY
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL FACTS:
A plump little owl with short wings and long tail; yellow eyes, yellowish- white beak, dark, white-ringed “false eyes” on back of head
Males: grayish-brown with fine white spotting
Females: tend to be slightly darker than males
Young: spotting on head, dark beak
California Pygmy Owl, Mountain Pygmy Owl
CLOSEST RELATIVE: Cape Pygmy Owl
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL SIZE:
Females tend to be slightly larger than males
Height: Males 16-18 cm (6.3-7.1 in), Females 16-18 cm (6.3-7.1 in)
Weight: Males 62g (2.2 oz), Females 72g (2.5 oz)
Wingspan Both: 38cm (15.0 in)
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL RANGE:
Western North America, from southeastern Alaska and British Columbia south to California, Arizona, and northern Mexico
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL HABITAT:
Mostly coniferous and deciduous forest edges
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL DIET:
Main foods taken include small to medium sized birds, such as waxwings and chickadees; small mammals, such as mice and voles; shrews; sometimes insects, such as beetles and moths; occasionally small reptiles and amphibians
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL VOICE:
Primary song is a series of evenly spaced high pitched “toots”, but a variety of trills, twitters, and chirps can be heard, especially near nest.
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL NESTING:
Nest Site: cavity nester; nests in holes made by woodpeckers; will also use nest boxes
Eggs: 5-7 eggs
Incubation: 27-29 days
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL HUNTING HABITS:
Hunts during day but also during crepuscular period. Primarily a perch and pounce hunter but known to raid nests of passerines and woodpeckers.
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL CONSERVATION STATUS:
Not globally threatened, though apparently declining in many places in western North America.
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL RESEARCH:
Read about the Owl Research Institute's Northern Pygmy Owl study in RESEARCH.
© Kurt Lindsay
© Kurt Lindsay
© Daniel J Cox/NaturalExposures.com
NORTHERN PYGMY OWL DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH AMERICA
Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Northern Pygmy Owl
Nest Box Info
For nest box plans and more information, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project NestWatch website:
The word “pygmy” means small, and that certainly describes the Northern Pygmy-Owl! Standing just 16-18 centimeters tall, this tiny owl is one of the smallest in North America. But the Pygmy-Owl doesn’t let size stand in its way; this fierce little owl frequently preys on birds and mammals larger than itself. You might see a Pygmy-Owl being harassed by a mob of angry songbirds.
Pygmy-owls are also well known for their feather markings. These owls literally have “eyes on the back of their heads”, or so it seems. Though Northern Pygmy-Owls actually have bright yellow eyes in front, the backs of their heads are feathered with a pair of quite convincing “eye spots”. Though these markings are really just variations in feather coloring, researchers believe that they confuse both predators and songbirds that might mob them. What do you think?
You may just get to see for yourself, for this is one owl that can be seen hunting most anytime of day or night, but especially near dawn and dusk. These tiny owls usually make their homes near forest edges and will often venture into a neighborhood looking for a songbird snack. Northern Pygmy-Owls aren’t particularly shy of humans, so keep your eyes peeled and you just might see one in your own neighborhood!