The Northern Pygmy-Owl
A Northern Pygmy-Owl is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Northern Pygmy-Owls. We have also put together a list of fun Northern Pygmy-Owl t-shirts, Northern Pygmy-Owl bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
About Northern Pygmy-Owls
The Northern Pygmy-Owl can be considered to a relatively small owl, native to North America in the western region. They are found in Canada, United States through to Mexico. They are generally uncommon in the region but widespread even though there is no evidence of declining numbers. An interesting fact to note is that the Northern Pygmy-Owl do not take residence in man-made nests. Therefore, if it ever comes to declining numbers, it would be difficult to use man-made nests as a conservative strategy.
Description and Identification
Northern Pygmy Owls are extremely small owls at a length of 6.3 – 7.1 inches, making them
smaller than Mountain Bluebirds but larger than Elf Owls. These birds are fairly compact with
a large, circular head that lacks ear tufts. They have a long tail and short, rounded wings
with a wingspan of roughly 10 – 11 inches. Their heads are white and spotted with weakly
defined facial discs. They have dark upper breasts, wings, and a dark tail that is long
compared to other owls; their eyes are a piercing yellow while their bills are yellowish-
green. Their mid to lower breasts are white and are marked with darker vertical streaking.
These birds have two black nape spots that are outlined in white on the back of their head,
resembling a second pair of eyes.
Northern Pygmy-Owl Color Pattern
They range in color depending on the species. The color ranges from gray to grayish brown or rufous. Their heads are round and white spotted defined by a weakly facial disc and dark upper breast as well as dark color on the wings and tail. It has two black nape spots outlined in white at the back of its head.
Northern Pygmy-Owl Size
The Northern Pygmy-Owl is a small bid with its length spanning 15-17cm and a wingspan of about 15 inches. They have an average weight of about 61g. Their heads appear round without ear-tufts. A distinguishing feature is their bar tail which measures between 6-7cm.
Northern Pygmy-Owl Behavior
The Northern Pygmy-Owl may be a tiny owl but it is considered ferocious in hunting. It has a liking for songbirds and uniquely, the owl hunts during the day. The phenomenon forces most songbirds to mob around the owl when it’s in the open. For bird-watching enthusiasts, they need to spot the songbirds mobbing the owl in order to spot it.
The bird is more conspecific with other birds in the same family thus may be seen to socialize with other birds in the same category such as the Baja Pygmy-Owl, Mountain Pygmy-Owl, and the Guatemalan Pygmy-Owl.
Northern Pygmy-Owl Food
These birds mainly eat small birds and mammals. Their diet is mostly focused on small
birds, including hummingbirds, chickadees, warblers, and sparrows, while their range of
mammalian prey includes shrews, moles, and chipmunks. These birds are known to be
especially aggressive and can be observed occasionally attacking prey that is larger than
them, such as Northern Bobwhites and California Quails. When there is a scarcity of their
preferred prey, they can be seen eating insects like beetles, butterflies, crickets, and
dragonflies, along with reptiles like lizards and skinks. They hunt by pursuing their prey and
swooping down on them, sometimes also catching insects in flight.
They eat small birds, insects, and lizards dependent on the location and the season. The Northern Pygmy-Owl will catch rodents as big as squirrels and gophers.
Northern Pygmy-Owl Habitat
These owls inhabit forests that range from deciduous woods along streams to high-elevation
spruce-fire forests at timberline. They can also be found inhabiting cottonwood, aspen, and
mixed-conifer forests. Mexican populations live in pine-oak and scrub forests, with the
southernmost parts of their range in northern Central America opting for highland pine and
cloud forests. While these birds are non-migratory, the owls at the northern part of their
range move to lower elevations and towards towns with abundant songbird populations at
bird feeders during the winters.
The owl can be found in open coniferous forests, mixed woods, and wooded canyons. The dens part of the trees is used for nesting while the open parts are used for hunting.
Range and Migration
Northern Pygmy-Owls are small, ferocious owls that are native to western North America.
They are found in southwestern Canada, western United States, and regions of Mexico and
are permanent residents of their habitats. These owls have four recognized subspecies that
occupy different regions spanning from south-eastern Alaska till north-western Central
America, with the mountainous geography presumably making way for different rates of
evolution among the populations at different parts of their range.
Northern Pygmy-Owl Life Cycle
Their lifespan may not be known but the female Northern Pygmy-Owl can lay between 3-4 eggs. She keeps the eggs incubated for 28 days. The young take another 28 days to leave the nest.
Northern Pygmy-Owl Nesting
Like many other owl species, Northern Pygmy-Owls nest in holes in trees. They rely on
cavities that are a result of decaying wood or are made by woodpeckers. These birds have
also been observed to avoid man-made nest boxes. These birds are dependent on such
cavities for nesting and any possible alternative nesting sites are not well-known. The nests
themselves may have debris at the bottom of the cavity, where wood chips, decomposing
leaves, and nests of other birds provide a base for the females to lay their eggs in.
Sometimes, additional linings are added with feathers, strips of bark, and moss.
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 Northern Pygmy-Owls
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Northern Pygmy-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.
Northern Pygmy-Owl T-shirts
If you love the Northern Pygmy-Owl you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Northern Pygmy-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 and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Northern Pygmy-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.
Northern Pygmy-Owl Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Northern Pygmy-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 Northern Pygmy-Owls
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 Northern Pygmy-Owls
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.