Bird GuideOwlsFerruginous Pygmy-Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Glaucidium brasilianum

At a Glance

Common and widespread in the American tropics, this little owl enters our area only in southern Texas and Arizona, where it is now uncommon to rare. It is often active by day, and may feed on small birds at times; songbirds in its range all recognize its whistled call, and will gather around to mob and harass the owl when they discover it.
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Southwest, Texas
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Apparently permanent resident throughout its range.


6 1/2-7" (17-18 cm). Similar to Northern Pygmy-Owl but has black bars on reddish tail, narrow streaks (not spots) on crown; found at lower elevations in southwest.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Red, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Rounded, Short
Tail Shape
Long, Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Monotonous, repeated, harsh poip; also whistles.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Hoot, Whistle


Mesquite thickets, desert riverine woods, saguaros. In United States, currently most numerous in low stands of live oak and mesquite in southern Texas. Was formerly common in mesquite forest along rivers and in desert dominated by saguaro cactus. In tropics, found in wide range of lowland habitats, mostly in semi-open country.



3-4, sometimes 5. White. Apparently incubation is mostly or entirely by female, about 28 days; male brings food to female during incubation.


Both parents take part in providing food for young; male may do most of hunting at first. Age of young at first flight about 27-30 days.

Feeding Behavior

Apparently hunts most actively near dawn and dusk. Hunts by watching from raised perch, then darting out in very rapid flight to capture prey in talons. Notably bold and aggressive for its small size.


Includes insects, birds, rodents, lizards. Diet is not well known, and probably varies by region. Among known foods are large insects (including crickets, caterpillars, and beetles), scorpions, small birds, rodents and other small mammals, and lizards.


Breeding behavior is not well known. Male defends nesting territory with song of monotonous repeated whistles, mostly at dusk and dawn, also at night, sometimes by day. Nest site is in cavity in tree or in giant cactus, usually old woodpecker hole, but sometimes natural hollow in tree. Typically low, 10-30' above ground.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Now considered endangered or threatened in limited range in United States. Still widespread in tropics, although undoubtedly has declined in some areas.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.