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Northern Pygmy-Owl
A Reference for North and Central American Owls

 The Northern Pygmy-Owl, like all Pygmy-Owls, is diurnal (active in the daytime). It is a small but very bold and ferocious predator that will attack prey more than twice its size. Here you will find photos, recordings and a brief field notes section to help identify and enjoy this beautiful owl. A more in depth write up and range map can be found in its natural history page (the Biology link). To jump immediately to any of these sections use the Page Jump Links below.

Page Jump Links:
Photo Gallery
Additional photos
Audio Recordings
Field Notes
Biology

 

PHOTO GALLERY
Click on the thumbnail to bring up each of the Owl photos.

Northern Pygmy Owl Photo

158K

Northern Pygmy Owl Photo

72K

Northern Pygmy Owl Photo

61K

California Sierras
near Yosemite
May 2009

Larimer County
Colorado
Febuary 2003
California Sierras
near Yosemite
October 1999
A seemingly very calm,
fierce little predator.
This photo is of a pinicola race of Northern Pygmy Owl taken in Colorado.
These little owls are slightly smaller (shorter) than White-crowned Sparrows.

Northern Pygmy Owl Photo

60K

Northern Pygmy Owl Photo

47K

Northern Pygmy Owl Photo

46K
California Sierras
near Yosemite
January 2000
California Sierras
near Yosemite
January 2000
California Sierras
near Yosemite
January 2000
Just a little puff ball.
Small eyes in the front.
Big eyes in the back.

Additional Photos

Photo 1
76K

Photo 2
88K

Photo 3
66K

RECORDINGS
Click on the sonograms to bring up each of the recordings.

Sound File
73K
Placer County,
California
June 1999

Sound File
59K
Placer County,
California
August 1999

This is the primary advertising call of this owl. These evenly spaced hoots are the most common call heard in the field. The Pygmy's " trill" is also a primary call and is often followed by one or more of the single primary hoots. 

FIELD NOTES
Northern Pygmy-Owl - Glaucidium californicum

 The Northern Pygmy-Owl is a diurnal owl, although mostly crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), and is rarely seen and/or heard at night. This small owl is unlikely to be confused with any other owl, in North America, except in a very small region of southern Arizona where there is a overlapping range with the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, although the Northern Pygmy is generally at higher elevations. The Ferruginous Pygmy also has a "popping" primary call that help to separate these small owls. The Northern Pygmy-Owl is grayish brown with a white chest that has bold dark brown streaking; it has a long narrow tail that is crossed with  white bars and buffy white spotting on the forehead, sides and back. There are two black patches on its nape that vaguely resemble a pair of extra eyes; it has a pale grayish yellow bill and bright yellow iris (eyes). This owl lacks ear tufts. Often seen as the lead bird in a cloud of screaming (mobbing) song birds. Length is 6 3/4" (slightly smaller than a White-crowned Sparrow) and the sexes are alike.

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