Northern Pygmy-OwlGlaucidium gnoma

adult, Pacific
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult, Interior West
Dr. Edgar T. Jones/VIREO
adults, Interior West
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
owlets, Interior West
Dr. Edgar T. Jones/VIREO
adult, Pacific
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Northern Pygmy-Owl



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.


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


toot series
paired toots


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


Resident from southeastern Alaska southward throughout most of West.


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.


3-6 white eggs in an abandoned woodpecker hole.

Similar Species


Elf Owl

5 1/2" (14 cm). A tiny owl with a short tail, no ear tufts, yellow eyes; buff with indistinct dark streaks.

adult, gray morph

Eastern Screech-Owl

10" (25 cm). A small, mottled owl with prominent ear tufts; yellow eyes. Both rufous and gray color phases occur, as well as brownish intermediates.

adult, red morph

Flammulated Owl

6-7" (15-18 cm).

adult, Interior Southwest

Western Screech-Owl

7-10" (18-25 cm). A small, mottled gray owl with ear tufts.


Whiskered Screech-Owl

6 1/2-8" (17-20 cm). Almost identical to Western Screech-Owl, but with longer bristles at base of bill, larger white spots on upperparts, and heavier streaking on breast. Best identified by voice.


Northern Saw-whet Owl

7" (18 cm). A very small, earless, yellow-eyed owl; brown above, with white streaks on forehead, dark bill, and short tail.


Boreal Owl

9-12" (23-30 cm). W. 24" (61 cm). A rare, robin-sized owl without ear tufts. Brown with white spots above, rust-streaked below.

adult, Western

Burrowing Owl

9" (23 cm). A robin-sized terrestrial owl, short-tailed and long-legged. Yellow eyes; no ear tufts; face framed in white, with blackish collar.


Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

6 1/2-7" (17-18 cm). Resembles Northern Pygmy-Owl, but more rust-colored, with rusty, faintly cross-barred tail and streaked flanks. Crown streaked with white, underparts streaked with red-brown.


iPad Promo