Monday, October 10, 2016

Northern Pygmy-Owl

The Northern Pygmy-Owl (scientific name differs by taxonomy; IOC: Glaucidium californicum; AOU: G. gnoma) is Canada's smallest owl and the only pygmy-owl (Glaucidium) that occurs here. This tiny little resident is found mostly in the mountains of western North America (in Canada mostly in British Columbia but it does occur east of the Continental Divide in westernmost Alberta).

After a recent conference in Banff, I managed to photograph two Northern Pygmy-Owls. The first was along the Bow Valley in Banff National Park and the second in the foothills east of the park. The first five photos below show the first of these two owls. I was lucky to spot this bird atop a pine near dusk and, even better, watched it fly down to an aspen and then dive into a spruce to grab a small bird.

The first photo below (followed by a crop of the same photo) shows of the owl with the snow-covered mountains in the background:

This mountain shot also shows the owl's 180 degree head turn:

This is the point where the pygmy-owl dove into the spruce. Although I suspected it was hunting I wasn't sure at first...

until it emerged with a small bird (looking at the photos later I suspect the prey was a Dark-eyed Junco). As this was right at dusk, I suspect the junco has already settled in to roost for the night (I have watched Eastern Screech-Owls grab prey at the roost like this several times):

These next two photos show the second owl in the foothills east of the Rockies; the first perched high atop some hoarfrost laden needles and then in a leafless aspen.   

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed the thrill of seeing these tiny owls. Special thanks to Doug Collister and family for their exceptional hospitality!

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