Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Northern Pygmy-Owl

A northern pygmy-owl is a beautiful little bird, often less than 7 inches in length.

They hunt primarily during the day.

Unlike most owls, they rely on their vision for hunting, more than their hearing.

When they fluff their feathers, they look like little fur balls with eyes.

Lifting a foot to scratch, looks like a precarious endeavor.

 Head-down grooming seems even more dangerous.

It can be hard to imagine this bird as a serious predator.

When it awakens from its food-induced reverie, the predatory capabilities become progressively more obvious, starting with its gaping mouth and beak.

Accounts of its wingspan range from 12 to 15 inches, which enables this owl to lift prey that exceeds its own weight.

The long tail feathers are very helpful when slowing down...

... or turning sharply.

  The focused gaze

...is clearly that of a hunter.

The owl is so small, that after feeding it sometimes stuffs the second half of its prey in the crotch of a tree. A rodent's fur, foot and tail are visible on the right.

After a couple of hours, when the need to feed cannot be denied…

...the owl retrieves its second course.

 Fur and meat are processed all at once and the inedible parts are cast aside afterwords.

 These little owls also catch and eat small birds and insects as well as rodents.

Northern pygmy-owls do not build their own nests, instead they use cavities excavated by others, like old flicker nests. 

Flickers prefer to build new nests each year which makes them one of the key home builders of the birding world. Flickers like to excavate in dead, standing trees that have soft, slightly rotted wood. The more dead trees we leave standing, the greater the variety of wildlife that will reproduce.

With any luck, we will see more about the progress of this Foster Island flicker nest in coming weeks.

I was not lucky enough to find this little owl near Union Bay. Last month, a friend led me to a secret location for my first and only encounter with this exquisite little predator.

Here is a final photo with a bit of a cross-eyed, humorous look. I hope it leaves you with a smile.

Have a great day on Union Bay…where nature lives in the city!



  1. Excellent post, Larry!

    1. Thank you! Looking at the photos it is hard to remember this little owl may be less than 7 inches in length and I took the photos! ;-)

  2. What a beautiful and informative series--a real treat. You are fortunate, indeed, that a friend guided you to this spot!

  3. Thank you! It would be wonderful to have these little owls close by.

  4. Larry, I'm curious if this location was urban or did you need to get out in the woods to find this cute little critter.
    -Jeff Parke

    1. It was not in Seattle, however i think i have heard of some in the forest just west of downtown Portland.

  5. Your blog is always a treat! Thank you!

    1. You are welcome! Thank you for following along. :-)

  6. a fantastic series and kudos for your patience and for your non-disclosure of the bird's location...