Elf owls are the smallest type of owl. They only stand around five inches tall, and weigh between one ounce to an ounce and a half. They are grayish brown, and have round heads and do not have tufts.
These owls are found within the United States and Mexico. They like to be in deserts, especially deserts that have saguaro, which are a type of cactus.
Elf owls are also cavity dwellers. Their nests are commonly found in giant cacti or they’ll take over old woodpecker holes in trees. They’ll usually settle between 15 and 35 feet off of the ground, which helps ensure the survival of their owlets.
During mating season, the male owl will sing loudly to both defend his territory and impress any females nearby. When they pair up and reproduce, the female will usually lay around 3 eggs, although sometimes it can be between 2 and 4.
Incubation lasts around 24 days. They have the highest success rate of breeding out of all the other 18 species of owl in North America. Roughly 70% of the young fledge. The height and location of their nests is usually what helps this. At up to 30 feet in the air, predators like snakes, coyotes, and bobcats have a hard time getting to the nest, especially if that nest is within a cactus.
Because these owls are so tiny, the majority of their diet consists of insects. They’ll eat moths, crickets, beetles, and scorpions for example. They will hunt by diving down from a perch to go after an insect they spot. They will hover over the insect, which in turn causes it to take flight and makes it easy for them to catch in mid-air.
Love learning about owls? Be sure to check out our various articles on their habitats, eggs, nests, and more here!