Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Dave Menke, USFWS

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl
Glaucidium gnoma
Owls | Family: Owls, Strigidae

An estimated 2% of the species' North American breeding range lies within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

This small owl sometimes hunts by day, attacking birds even larger than itself. In spring the male is conspicuous, uttering a staccato whistle every few seconds while flicking his long tail upward and sideways. In response, the small forest birds sound an excited alarm, scolding and mobbing this tiny owl, just as they would any larger owl.

Description

7-7 1/2" (18-19 cm). A sparrow-sized owl. Small round head and long, finely barred tail that is often cocked at an angle. Varying shades of brown with fine buff spotting above; buff-white with bolder brown streaks below. 2 white-edged black spots at back of neck suggest eyes.

Voice

A series of mellow whistles on 1 pitch. Also a thin rattle around the nest.

Nesting

3-6 white eggs in an abandoned woodpecker hole.

Habitat

Open coniferous forests or mixed aspen and oak woods; dense canyon growth.

Range/Migration

Resident from southeastern Alaska southward throughout most of West.