Mountain Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)

Mountain Pygmy Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Glaucidium gnoma | [authority] Wagler, 1832 | [UK] Mountain Pygmy Owl | [FR] Chevechette naine | [DE] Gnomenkauz | [ES] Mochuelo Gnomo, Buhito Norteno (HN) | [NL] Noordamerikaanse Dwerguil


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Glaucidium are very small and tiny owls. They have rounded heads without ear-tufts. Their eyes are yellow. In many species the talons are, in relation to their size, very powerful. The facial disc is not very distinct. Some species have a large dark patch with a pale border on each side of the nape of the neck, looking like false eyes. Many are partly diurnal and sing from exposed perches. These are mostly very tenacious in the hunt, and show little fear, even of approaching humans. Glaucidium is a worldwide genus, containing some 30 species. Most of the Asian species, and some of the African species show physical and behavioural differences that suggest they might be better placed in Athene, and DNA evidence suggests that there is only a distant relationship between the Old World Pygmy Owls and those of the New World.

Physical charateristics

Black patches on each side of the hind-neck suggest “eyes on back of the head.” A very small, “earless” owl; brown, with sharply streaked flanks
and a rather long barred tail. Frequently heard calling or seen flying in daytime. The spotted head is proportionately smaller than that of a Saw-whet or Screech-Owl. Tail often held at a perky angle.

Listen to the sound of Mountain Pygmy Owl

[audio: Pygmy Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

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North America, Middle America : Southeast Arizona to Central Honduras


Open coniferous or mixed woods, wooded canyons.
Found in a wide variety of forest types, including open oak groves, sycamores in canyons, pine-oak woodland, coniferous forest of far north and high mountains. Generally in partly open habitats rather than solid unbroken forest.


Some birds defend territories all year; in breeding
season, pairs defend very large nesting territories. Courtship displays at dusk may involve rapid aerial chases through the trees near potential nest sites. In courtship on perch, male feeds female.
Nest: Site is in cavity in tree, either in natural hollow or (perhaps more often) in abandoned woodpecker hole, and usually 8 -25′ above ground. No nest built, eggs laid in bottom of cavity.
Clutch 3 -4, sometimes 2 -7. White. Incubation apparently is by female only, about 28 days.
Young: Both parents take part in providing food for young, with male bringing much of prey, female feeding it to young. Female may roost in nest hole with young at first. Age of young at first flight about 27-28 days.

Feeding habits

Includes rodents, birds, insects, lizards. Diet varies with location and season. Rodent
s such as voles and mice are often major prey, also catches mammals as large as gophers and squirrels. During warm weather, eats many large insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, beetles. Small songbirds are sometimes up to one third of diet. In
southern parts of range, may catch many lizards.
Behavior: Hunts most actively near dawn and dusk, but also at other times. Watches for prey from a perch, then makes very rapid pursuit flight.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Mountain Pygmy Owl status Least Concern


No regular migration, but may wander away from breeding areas in fall and winter, including some downslope movement by mountain birds.

Distribution map

Mountain Pygmy Owl distribution range map

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