Northern Pygmy Owl

pygmy owl(Glaucidium gnoma)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in open forests of western North America, ranging from British Columbia and southern Alaska down to California, Arizona, and Mexico.

Size:  2-3 ounces; wingspan up to 15 inches

Wild Diet: Birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects

Predators: Larger owls, jays, crows, ravens, snakes, and weasels

Reproduction: During the breeding season, males and females call to each other, share food, and snuggle. They often nest in old woodpecker cavities. Females lay 3-7 eggs between April and June and incubate them for about a month while males provide food and defend the nest. The chicks reach 60 percent of their adult size in just two weeks and fledge after about 30 days, but parents continue to feed and protect them for several more weeks.

Behavior: Northern pygmy owls hunt by day and sleep at night. They are “sit and wait” predators. When they have spotted prey, they swoop down from their perch and grab the prey’s throat with their talons. They can carry prey up to three times their weight. They may store extra food in tree cavities, especially during the winter. When moving throughout the forest, they tend to land low in a tree, then move upwards from branch to branch within that tree. When threatened, they puff up their feathers to make themselves look larger.


IUCN Status: Least Concern

The greatest threat to the Northern pygmy owl is habitat destruction.

Did you know?

  • Northern pygmy owls have large, black false eye spots on the back of their heads.
  • They don’t have silent flight feathers, as many other owls do. They hunt by sight rather than by hearing.