Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 04/03/2015

Photo taken on February  5, 2011

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Glaucidium californicum
Northern Pygmy-owl
Fish Creek Park
side view
bird of prey
formerly Glaucidium gnoma

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Northern Pygmy-owl from 2011

Northern Pygmy-owl from 2011
I came across this photo of a tiny, popcan-sized Northern Pygmy-owl from my archives the other day and thought I'd post it. It was taken on 5 February 2011, in Fish Creek Park. Can't help wondering if this owl is the same owl as one of the ones that have been in Fish Creek Park during January and February of this year (2015). I think it has to be.

On the day I took this photo, I had bumped into a group of friends when I arrived at the parking lot and they told me they had seen the owl. Well, it took a lot of looking, I can tell you! When I finally did spot it, it was towards the top of probably the tallest tree in the area, but it eventually flew to the other side of the path, to the top of the second tallest tree. Again it flew and disappeared. After looking and looking and looking, there it was, not too far away, but in a tree with a tangle of small branches, thankfully with none across the owl itself. These little fist-sized/popcan-sized owls are just about impossible to find : ) I think this was only about the third time I'd had any fresh air at all in the previous 5-6 weeks, which was so bad and, though sunshine would have been really nice, I'm sure the short walk did me some good. The owl certainly did : ) These little guys are just so beautiful - and fierce! They are rare to uncommon here in Alberta.

"Northern Pygmy Owls are 'sit and wait' predators, that hunt mainly by vision, diving down onto prey on the ground and driving the talons into the prey's throat. They will also attack birds in shrubs, crashing into the hapless victims. Most prey is carried off in the feet to feeding sites. Birds are usually plucked before being consumed. They often eat only the brains of birds and the soft abdomen of insects. One of these little owls can carry prey weighing up to 3 times its own weight.

The Northern Pygmy Owl feeds on a wide range of small prey including small mammals, birds, and reptiles and amphibians. Voles make up the bulk of their diet, with birds comprising most of the rest (mainly songbirds, but as large as a California Quail). Other small mammals include shrews, mice, chipmunks, bats, moles, young rabbits, and weasels. Insects may be very important when they are most abundant. Other prey taken are toads, frogs and small lizards and snakes.

During winter, surplus prey is cached in a cavity, often in large quantities. Summer caches are usually much smaller.

Pellets are very small, averaging about 3cm long. They are formed only occasionally as these owls don't consume large amounts of fur, feathers, or bone. The pellets tend to fall apart shortly after ejection." From OwlPages.