Subject: pygmy-owl habits
Date: Sep 12 14:26:19 1994
From: Dennis Paulson - dpaulson at

Dan, I hope you're not embarrassed when I tell you that pygmy-owls are
*supposed* to be sitting out in the open on a nice sunny day. All members
of the genus Glaucidium, widespread in the world, are primarly diurnal, as
opposed to the majority of owl species. Your confusion is reasonable; I
doubt if any but the hardest-core birder (with lots of free time) has
memorized everything in their field guide. Just for interest, I checked:
the NGS guide says "chiefly diurnal." The Audubon Master Guide and
Peterson's western guide say "often seen during daytime," which may or may
not imply diurnality. I personally think the *nocturnality* (including dawn
and dusk) of this species has been overstated. Their relatively small head
and eyes (and I think ears) indicate they aren't like typical nocturnal
owls, and the eyespots on the back of the neck indicate they sit in the
open in broad daylight and thus need something to deter predation from
behind (much as in a kestrel). I often hear comments about hearing
pygmy-owls at night, something I have experienced very seldom. Their
primary prey is songbirds, quite different from the primary prey (small
rodents) of nocturnal species such as screech-owls and saw-whet owl. This
is why songbirds respond so readily to imitations of pygmy-owl calls; they
know (or are programmed to respond to) an important predator in their
habitat--one that's active at the same time they are!

Dennis Paulson