Deep Dive - Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

by OBDK on January 10, 2022

Ferruginous Pygmy Owls look very similar to Northern Pygmy Owls, but their range is further south within the United States.1 They’re really only found in the southern parts of Texas and Arizona – and even then, it’s rare to spot them.2


Their range reaches down into Mexico and Baja California. They like to hang out in cactus deserts, or dry areas with mesquite or oak, and can also be found in riparian forests. Similar to the Northern Pygmy Owls, they like to nest in cavities – either ones made by woodpeckers or in cacti.3


These owls were the reason that urban planning changed in Arizona, as the US Fish and Wildlife Service capped development in areas in order to help protect their habitats. This became the basis of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, which was used throughout the country to help preserve species while developing urban areas.4


The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl was listed as endangered in 1997, after several lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity. They were delisted in 2006 after developers filed a lawsuit to delist them. In 2019, another lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, which gave the US Fish and Wildlife Service a deadline in which they had to evaluate whether these owls needed protection again or not.4


These owls hunt birds, rodents, lizards, and insects. Just like the Northern Pygmy Owls, they’ll often be mobbed by songbirds to drive them away. When hunting, they’ll stay on a perch and watch for their prey before launching themselves after it.2


In case you missed it, check out our deep dive on Northern Pygmy Owls!

  1. Sibley’s Owls of North America, by David Allen Sibley. Published by Earth Sky + Water, LLC. 2016.




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