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

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.


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


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.


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.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Apparently permanent resident throughout its range.

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Songs and Calls

Monotonous, repeated, harsh poip; also whistles.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate Threats Near You

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.