An Elf Owl is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Elf Owls. We have also put together a list of fun Elf Owl t-shirts, Elf Owl bird patches, bird houses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers and other fun bird watching items.
About the Elf Owl
They are the world’s smallest and lightest owls. They breed in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. In fact, when fully grown, they can be mistaken for young owls. They have puffy feathers giving them a swollen appearance. Possess a high breeding success thanks to their hard to reach nest sites; cacti. A group of owls can be referred to as parliament, stooping or bazaar of owls. Some of their distinctive features include:
Description and Identification
Elf Owls are small grayish-brown birds with pale yellow eyes, gray bills, and horn-coloured
tips. They also have characteristic white lines above their eyes that resemble eyebrows. The
average length of these birds is between 5 – 6 inches with a wingspan of 10.5 inches
approximately. Their flight feathers are relatively long and extend past their tails. Compared
to the rest of their bodies, they have long legs which give them a bow-like appearance.
Elf Owl Color Pattern
Elf Owls are primarily brown with gray-brown upperparts with buffing spots, while their underparts are white with red-brown streaking. Their eyes are pale yellow with white eyebrows.
Elf Owl Size
They are no bigger than a sparrow with long wings and a short tail with 3-5 bars. They are about six inches when fully grown.
Relative size for both sexes
- Length range: 5-6 in (13-15 cm)
- Weight: 1.4 oz (40 g)
- Wingspan range: 15 in (38 cm)
Elf Owl Behavior
The Elf Owls yapping and chuckling call can be heard in a moonlit night, which is high pitched and resembles whistles and squeaks. They are hard to find in plain sight and when disturbed or sense danger, camouflage their bodies against a tree. They assume various positions that portray a broken branch. Better yet, they will take to flight if this does not distract the item.
What Elf Owl Eat
These birds are nocturnal hunters that primarily feed on anthropods and insects. They feed
the most heavily on moths, beetles, and crickets, but also consume scorpions, spiders, and
centipedes. Elf Owls have been observed to remove the stingers of scorpions before
consumption while seeming to be unaffected by the stings. On rare occasions, they also
feed on small reptiles and vertebrates like lizards. In urban areas, these birds take
advantage of streetlights that attract various insects. Their method for finding prey is
primarily by hovering around foliage to catch insects that have been flushed out of the
leaves. They also chase their prey on occasions.
The majority of their diet is made up of insects and scorpions. Also known to feed on small birds and lizards. Often supplement their diet with various invertebrates such as moths, crickets, and centipedes. Even though they are nocturnal birds, they have weak night vision, hence rely on their hearing when looking for prey.
Where Elf Owls Live
Elf Owls are primarily found in lowland habitats around semiarid and arid regions. Found in
brushy woodlands and in the surrounding deserts, they prefer areas with sufficient covering
for protection. During their breeding season, they are abundant in the chaparral. They thrive
in warm climates and prefer places with mild winters to reside in. The need for good nesting
cavities drives them towards wooded canyons and deserts with tall cacti, especially around
trees like sycamore or large oak. They can also be found in urban areas, utilizing groves for
their nesting purposes.
Elf Owls are classically found in drier habitats such as deserts with tall saguaro cactus. Most common in lowland habitats which provide ideal breeding grounds. Within the United States, they thrive in canyons, especially around large oaks. Their need for water sees them breed in deserts where there is an oasis such as Nevada.
Range and Migration
Elf Owls are the smallest owls in the world, being only slightly larger than sparrows. They are
primarily found in the Southwestern United States, central Mexico, and the Baja California
peninsula and are known to migrate in large numbers along the lower, semi-arid half of North
America. They breed in regions around the Southwest like California, Arizona, and Texas
during the summer until the winters push them further southwards towards Central Mexico
and the Baja California peninsula. There are also flocks of birds present in south-central
Mexico and the Baja California peninsula are year-long residents and do not migrate.
Elf Owl Lifecycle
The female elf owl lays 3-4 eggs after which it incubates for 24 days. During this period, the male owl feeds the female. The female is left with the young as the male hunts for food. However, after 27-28 days the young leave the nest. Their lifespan is 3-6 years in the wild.
Elf Owl Nesting
Elf Owls find naturally occurring cavities or woodpecker holes within trees to nest in. Males
find and occupy potential holes during breeding seasons and try to lure females in with loud
calls. Pairs mate for an average of three months with the male fiercely protecting the nesting
sites. Saguaro cacti are commonly found with elf owls nesting within woodpecker holes, with
the nesting sites ranging high from 10 – 30 feet. The height of the nest sites ranges between
10 – 50 feet along with streamside sycamores. Each clutch of eggs contains an average of 2 – 4
eggs, with the incubation period lasting for 24 days. During the courtship and the incubation
periods, the males keep the females fed.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Elf Owls
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Elf Owls are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Elf Owl T-shirts
If you love the Elf Owl you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Elf Owl Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron on patches. Our bird watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen an identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Elf Owl is a great iron on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Elf Owl Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Elf Owl. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders For Elf Owl
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Elf Owl
There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 bird houses have become our favorites. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these bird houses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.