Best 15 Pygmy Owl Facts, Food, Habits, Species

 Pygmy Owl

Pygmy owls are a small owl species but they are marvellous hunters, and they have a special taste for songbirds. The color of these owls ranges from dark brown shade to pale. They have long falcons and shorter round tails. Their heads are smooth, round shaped and have yellow coloured bulging eyes.

As their protective measure, small songbirds gather around these owls in huge quantities so that they can scare them off.  So if you see huge amounts of songbirds flying in a potential area, you can use them as an indicator to locate pygmy owls. 


You can locate marvelous Pygmy owls in the mountains present in the West in Northern America. Plus, there is a beneficial point about these owls is that they are diurnal in nature. It explains that these birds are active during the day which makes them easy to locate and watch. 

However, you need to be vigilant and pygmy owls are small and they sit very quietly while they wait for their prey. 

How to locate them? 

There are two best possible ways for locating pygmy owls:

  1. Hear them carefully and observe high pitched, muffled toots. 
  2. Second, you can locate a pack of small songbirds like chickadees. They also make noises collectively to save them from hunting owls. 

Pygmy Owl Interesting facts:

  1. Unlike other owls like screeching or saw-whets, pygmy owls do not prefer to inhabit the human made boxes. 
  2. In case, pygmy owls save themselves a bigger prey, they secure the leftovers in tree spaces. They also love to hang their prey with the thorns to eat it later. 
  3. Pygmy owls do not have the usual owl features like asymmetry of ears, and presence of facial discs around eyes. The most evident reasons why these owls do not exhibit the former features is because of their diurnal nature, and excellent vision. 
  4. In case Pygmy owls are threatened by an Eagle or a wild dog, their tufts become erect and stiff. 
  5. Pygmy owls have a pair of dark brown spots on the back of their head which resembles a pair of eyes. 

Pygmy owl

Pygmy owls are also true owls and belong to the family Strigidae, and they belong to the genus Glycedium. This genus comprises almost about thirty to thirty-five species that are found all over the globe. However, there are several disputes about the exact number of species. 

Pygmy owls are small-sized owls, and due to their small sizes, most of the species are known as owlets. Like all other owls, these owls also show activity at night; nocturnal behaviour. As far as their diet is concerned, due to their small size, they prefer to eat little and giant insects and other prey of smaller sizes like baby mice etc.

Following are the species of pygmy owls that are found throughout the world:

  • Northern Pygmy-Owl
  • Eurasian Pygmy owl
  • Sunda owlet
  •  Collared owlet
  • Pear;-spotted owlet
  • Yungas Pygmy owl
  • Baja pygmy owl
  • Mountain Pygmy owl
  • Costa Rican Pygmy owl
  • Guatemalan Pygmy owl
  • Cloud forest Pygmy owl
  • Yungas Pygmy owl
  • Tamaulipas Pygmy owl
  • Pernambuco Pygmy owl
  • Subtropical Pygmy owl
  • Central AmericanPygmy owl
  • East Brazilian Pygmy owl
  • Amazonian Pygmy owl
  • Pacific owlet 
  • Ferruginous owlet
  • Red-chested owlet
  • Cuban owlet
  • Austral owlet
  • Javian owlet
  • Asian-barred owlet
  • Albertine owlet
  • African Barred owlet
  • Jungle owlet

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy owls may appear tiny, but they do not compromise their hunting techniques due to their size. The owl has a darker brown and white marking plumage, with short bills and long tail. Northern Pygmy owls have even round heads with no prominent ear tufts, and their heads bear white dot-like marks on the dark brown plumage. These owls have prominent bright yellow eyes.

This species of the pygmy owls prefer to hunt during the day other than the night. Due to their hunting techniques, they always awe their watchers.

Facts about Northern Pygmy owls:

  1. When they have abundant food like in summer seasons, Northern Pygmy owls prefer to store the leftover prey in their nesting cavities like depressions and burrows in the trees. Sometimes they also hang the extra food on the perches.
  2. Many owls also have asymmetrical positioning of their ears, and flat facial discs help them to have a more sensitive sense of hearing. However, this feature is not familiar with the Northern Pygmy owls primarily due to their diurnal nature of hunting, as they are mainly dependent upon their eyesight for capturing the prey.
  3. Little songbirds like hummingbirds and cockatiels usually get together in large amounts to scare the owls away. Also, this is an excellent technique to locate this species of owls by following these noisy little birds.
  4. Northern pygmy owls bear ear tufts that usually hide under their plumage but as soon as they feel any kind of threat or danger, they raise them up. They do so to scare up their predators.
  5. Northern Pygmy owls also have black spots on the posterior side of their necks. These spots appear like eyes that they use to fool the prey that owls are watching them.
  6. Though Northern Pygmy owls are small-size birds, however, they do eat prey which is almost three times larger than their sizes.

Pygmy owl 1

Eurasian Pygmy owl

In Europe, these owls are the smallest among other owls. These owls have a red-brown or greyish brown mottled plumage. On both of the sides, these owls bear spots in different shapes. They have a distinctive feature that prominent them and that is the white circulation on the back of their neck.

These owls are present in North and Eastern Europe, and also in Siberia. These owls are sedentary in nature, that means that they remain in one place throughout the year. However, some of the owls may move due to the harsh winters. Juveniles may fly in the autumn and winter seasons.

Eurasian Pygmy owl Habitat:

Eurasian Pygmy owls are found in dense mountain forests and coniferous areas. These owls mainly inhabit the forest edges or damp, humid areas, because these areas have more excellent options of water sources. 

Like all other owls, these owls also do not build nests. Instead, they just take up the abandoned nests of other birds mainly, woodpeckers. Eurasian pygmy owls’ habitat usually includes holes, cavities, depressions in trees etc.

Eurasian Pygmy owl Mating:

Eurasian pygmy owls start looking for their mates as soon as the autumn season approaches. After finding a mate, the male owl flies the female to his territory. If he owns a hole, then he takes her to that hole.

The male takes the responsibility of feeding both the young and the female. These owls serially follow the monogamous behaviour, and they usually spend their one or more breeding seasons with one mate. In April, the female lays a clutch of four or seven eggs.

Eurasian Pygmy owl Diet:

Eurasian Pygmy owls feed primarily on small mammals like bats, mice, voles, small birds, and fishes etc. They also feed on insects, reptiles, and amphibians etc. Eurasian Pygmy owls follow a crepuscular pattern of hunting.

Mountain Pygmy owl

Mountain pygmy owls are small owls that inhabit Central America. Some institutes declare it as a separate species while others say it to be a sub-species of Northern Pygmy Owls. Mountain pygmy owl’s habitat is very diverse, and they can live from coniferous forests to open grasslands. However, despite this vast habitat range, researchers did not study this owl that much.

Pygmy owl 2

Mountain Pygmy owl Diet:

The diet of the Northern Pygmy owls contains insects, reptiles and small mammals also including birds. These owls are famous for their piercing hunting skills.

Mountain Pygmy owl Habitat:

Like all other owls they also take up the nests of other birds mostly woodpeckers, or they simply nest in collapsed trees. However, the Northern pygmy owls prefer to live in a habitat like the Rocky mountains. Usually, they nest on the dense trees near a water source because it provides them protection from sudden predator attacks. The dark, thick trees also aid them in camouflaging.

Pygmy Owl-size

The word “Pygmy” itself means “Small”, and therefore it is a specific thing that these owls are generally small in size. Northern Pygmy owls are just sixteen or eighteen centimetres in length, and therefore are one of the smallest owls in America. However, they do not take their small size as a flaw or hurdle and let their hunting skills cover this flaw. That is why they are famous for their fierce hunting methods, and they can also eat prey which is much larger in size than them.

Pygmy owl facts

  1. Pygmy owls are small-sized owls that people often think of as pigeons.
  2. Pygmy owls bear two pigmented spots on the back of their necks. These spots look precisely like eyes, and that is an excellent weapon of fooling the prey and predators too.
  3. Pygmy owls bear lengthy tails.
  4. Female Pygmy owls are more significant than males.
  5. Pygmy owls inhabit America, Columbia and their few numbers are also present in Alaska.
  6. Pygmy owls do not like to be in the dense areas of forests, but they prefer to be near the edges or the water sources.
  7. Pygmy owls are very solitary in nature, and they do not like that humans or any other animals watch them.
  8. Though Pygmy owls are small in size, they have very aggressive behaviour.
  9. Unlike other owls, these owls tend to attack other animals and even sometimes humans if they feel any danger or threat.
  10. When a pygmy owl feels any kind of threat or when they feel terror, they puff up their feathers to look more substantial in size and to scare them off.
  11. Pygmy owls are noisy, and it is easier to hear than to see them.
  12. As males are more territorial, they are more vociferous as compared to females.

Northern Pygmy owl range

Northern pygmy owls are abundantly present in Northern America. These owls are more observable in rocky mountains. A plus point is that these owls are of diurnal nature and thus are easy to find. However, these are aggressive and wait silently for their prey so maintain your distance.

How big is a Northern Pygmy owl?

Northern Pygmy Owls are the smallest owls in Northern America. They are hardly sixteen or seventeen centimetres in length. However, even after their small sizes, these owls are excellent hunters.

Can you own a pygmy owl?

Many people think that it will be cool to have owls as pets but few know that such exotic pets come with great care and responsibility. Also, in most of the countries, you cannot have owls without legal permits, particularly in America.

Only those individuals can have permits that fulfill some specific legal requirements like expert training, proper facilities, or individuals that require owls for educational purposes. Only such persons have the permission to have a license to own any e kind of native owl.

Pygmy owl 3

What does a pygmy owl eat?

Pygmy owls eat small insects like worms, caterpillars, beetles and some giant insects too, and in addition to this, they also eat small mammals, birds and fish.

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