Northern Pygmy Owls: though they be but little, they are fierce!

Northern Pygmy Owls: though they be but little, they are fierce!


Northern Pygmy Owls are one of the smallest owls in North America, but they don’t let their size hold them back from anything.

They stand between 6 and 7 inches tall, weigh only around 2-3 ounces, and have a wingspan of 15 inches.1 Their feathers are brown and white and they have yellow eyes. They have two spots on the back of their heads that are a “second pair of eyes” – these markings fool other animals into thinking they’re being watched.2

 

Where do they live? 

These guys can be found in western North America, in mountainous areas.2 They live all the way up to Alaska and British Columbia down to the northern parts of Mexico.1

 

What do they hunt?

Northern Pygmy Owls are different to other owls because they are daytime hunters. While most owls have asymmetrical ears in order to precisely locate their prey, these owls don’t. It’s thought that this is because they use their vision more since they hunt while it’s still light outside.2

These birds get their reputation from being so fierce because they’ve been known to take down prey several times their own size.2 Songbirds take up most of their diet. Other types of prey include: rodents, insects, lizards, and sometimes chickens!2&3 In order to protect themselves, songbirds will do what is called mobbing, which is when they’ll gather together and fly at bigger birds in order to get them to go away.2

 

Do they face any threats? 

They’re considered of "Low Concern", however, that’s not true of all places. They are declining in some areas of the west.1&2 They are very vulnerable to climate change. Audubon estimates that they could lose over 50% of their range if temperatures continue to rise.3

 

Do you catch our blog post on how wolves build their dens? Check it out here!

Sources & Further Reading

  1. https://www.owlresearchinstitute.org/northern-pygmy-owl

  2. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Pygmy-Owl/overview

  3. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/northern-pygmy-owl