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The Mighty Pygmy-Owl

February 12, 2013

Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo … the hooting carries on monotonously at dawn and dusk.   Look  for the distinctive silhouette – a tail sticking straight out of what could be a fuzzy tennis ball.   Yes, it is a Northern Pygmy-Owl – probably looking for voles or birds. These are indeed tiny little owls – with eyes at the back of their head. Well, not real eyes, but feathers arranged to look like eyes. Predators might be fooled into thinking that a much larger animal than the pygmy-owl is watching them.

Pygmy Owl on powerline

Pygmy Owl in a snow storm

looking out for food

watching for food

These little cavity-nesters are often mobbed by small birds. Owls  are vulnerable when they are roosting in the day but perhaps “get even” at dawn or dusk when they go hunting. Mobbing could put an individual “mobber” at risk of getting caught by the owl, but mobbing is usually a group effort. Concentrating on one individual in a group is difficult for predators. The mobbing may make the predator move on and may notify nearby birds that there is an owl in the area. Pygmy-owls are fierce predators and have been seen carrying a Steller’s Jay – a bird larger than the owl.

Pygmy Owl on small spruce

Pygmy Owl on small spruce

eyes in the back of her head

eyes in the back of her head

A long-time Kootenay resident once told me how he blew up a stump with dynamite. The stump was the favourite perch of a pygmy-owl that was keeping him awake. Next morning, the owl was hooting from another  nearby stump.  I often think of that story when I hear a pygmy-owl and remembering it makes me smile. My old friend was rather too fond of dynamite.

On the flats - looking for birds

On the flats – looking for rodents

All photos and writing copyright Joanne Siderius 2013

  1. Very cute!

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