Darwin This bird was hit by a car in Oakridge in mid-December 2007, and suffered a fracture of the left humerus close to the shoulder. This is a very difficult area to pin surgically, as the critical wing muscles extending up from the breast over the shoulder are large and cover the bone - unlike lower down the wing, where the bones are easy to see. Finding and reducing a fracture here usually involves cutting these muscles, potentially causing more harm than good. The muscles do also sometimes hold the broken bone ends in place effectively, with just immobilization. In this case, the bone had started to heal by the time a veterinarian was available to pin it - so we chose not to intervene surgically. The result was imperfect alignment, unfortunately - she can fly horizontally but not up and certainly not well enough to hunt.
This is a little woodland species, with a small head, stout body, short wings, and a
long tail. Females are larger than males. Plumage is brown above, with
spotting on the head, neck, and upper parts; the breast, belly and flanks
are whitish and streaked dark brown; the brown tail is barred. The face has
white and brown bands, with yellow eyes and bill, and a white chin; the
throat is brown with white spots. Large, black, false eye spots on the back
of the head may help the little owl evade predators, by giving the
impression that this bird is bigger than it really is. Plumage is similar
between the sexes, although males may be slightly grayer, and females
slightly redder in coloring. This owl will sometimes adopt a concealment
posture, erecting little feather tufts on the head, compressing the body
feathers, and drawing one wing across the front of the body to blend into a
wooded background. Flight is mostly short, perch to perch movements, in a
low, undulating pattern just above the ground.
Size - Length: 6.75" ave. • Wing Span: 12" ave. • Weight: 2.5 oz. ave.
Status - State and federally protected.
Habitat - This little owl has adapted to a variety of forest habitats with nearby clearings, from deciduous bottomlands, to high elevation coniferous forests, to wooded canyons in arid regions. Any forest environment where cavities excavated by woodpeckers make nest sites available.
Diet - Northern Pygmy Owls are diurnal and semi-nocturnal hunters. With their small size and high metabolic rate requiring frequent hunting, they seek food throughout the day, as well as at dawn and dusk. Their diet is primarily small birds, insects, and mice, with occasional amphibians and reptiles. These birds are visual hunters. They lack the silent flight feathers, the well-developed facial feather disc, and the asymmetrical ear structure of owls that hunt by ear. "Perch and pounce" is the preferred method; prey is located by sight, then the owl glides and dives in for the kill. These ferocious little hunters will go after birds their own size, or even larger.
Call - The characteristic call of this little owl is several toots, one or two seconds apart, followed or preceded by a higher-pitched, rapid trilling note.
Nesting - Northern Pygmy Owls rely on woodpeckers to create cavities suitable for nest building, although natural cavities will also be used if available. These owls use bark strips, feathers, mosses and lichen to line their nests. The few nests found have been surprisingly deep - as much as 36".
Most Common Problems - Sometimes collide with vehicles, or fly into windows. Forest habitat for this species is lost through removal of nesting snags with woodpecker holes.