The word “pygmy” means small, and that certainly describes the Northern Pygmy-Owl! Standing just 16-18 centimeters tall, this tiny owl is one of the smallest in North America. But the Pygmy-Owl doesn’t let size stand in its way; this fierce little owl frequently preys on birds and mammals larger than itself. You might see a Pygmy-Owl being harassed by a mob of angry songbirds. Pygmy-owls are also well known for their feather markings. These owls literally have “eyes on the back of their heads”, or so it seems. Though Northern Pygmy-Owls actually have bright yellow eyes in front, the backs of their heads are feathered with a pair of quite convincing “eye spots”. Though these markings are really just variations in feather coloring, researchers believe that they confuse both predators and songbirds that might mob them. What do you think?
You may just get to see for yourself, for this is one owl that can be seen hunting most anytime of day or night, but especially near dawn and dusk. These tiny owls usually make their homes near forest edges and will often venture into a neighborhood looking for a songbird snack. Northern Pygmy-Owls aren’t particularly shy of humans, so keep your eyes peeled and you just might see one in your own neighborhood!
Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.