Profile shot showing one yellow eye on the left and the dark feathered 'eye' to the right.
Description 7 - 7 1/2" Small, long-tailed owl, with
yellow eyes and feet.
It has only small and inconspicuous ear-tufts, which
are seldom seen in the field. Small round head and
long, finely barred tail that is often cocked at an angle.
Varying shades of brown with fine buff spotting above;
buff-white with bolder brown streaks below. two
white-edged black spots at back of neck suggest eyes.
Habitat Open coniferous forests or mixed aspen
and oak woods; dense canyon growth.
Diet Northern Pygmy-Owls eat rodents, large
insects, and small birds, which make up to one third of
their diet in some places.
Nesting Monogamous pairs form in the spring.
Northern Pygmy-Owls nest in natural tree cavities or
old woodpecker holes. They do not add nest material.
The female incubates 3 to 6 white eggs for about 28
days, waiting for all the eggs to be laid before
beginning incubation, a behavior unique among North
While she is brooding, the male brings her food. The
female stays on the nest and broods the young for the
male continues to bring food to the nest. The young
begin to fly at 27 to 28 days
Range Resident from southeastern Alaska
southward throughout most of West.
Voice A series of mellow whistles on 1 pitch. Also a
thin rattle around the nest.
Discussion This small owl sometimes hunts by
day, attacking birds even larger than itself. In spring the
male is conspicuous, uttering a staccato whistle every
few seconds while flicking his long tail upward and
In response, the small forest birds sound an excited
alarm, scolding and mobbing this tiny owl, just as they
would any larger owl.
Regarding migration, While Northern Pygmy-Owls do
not undertake a regular seasonal migration, birds at
higher altitudes may wander down-slope in fall and
winter, as they follow the movement of their prey.
During this time they may be seen at the lower edges
of forests, along streams in the shrub-steppe region,
and even in hay fields and pastures.
My first sighting of this small, but mighty owl was quite eventful. As I stood refilling the bird
feeders, this owl swooped in and snatched a junco perched on a limb. He held a death-grip on
the poor thing while I snapped a few photos.
He kept turning
around, and this
shot shows a bit
of the dark back
are to suggest
|Final shot before flying off into the distant trees with his prey.