Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls are common throughout most of South and Central America. At the northern end of this range, in southern Arizona and southern Texas, however, the species is rare or endangered. In Texas these owls suffered from the clearing of 90% of Honey Mesquite-Live Oak woodlands between 1920 and 1945. A look at eBird shows only a few dozen records ranging from Kingsville to the lower Rio Grand. This may be misleading, since, when I submitted this record, eBird advised me to keep the record hidden. The fear was that, when birders learn of Pygmy-Owl locations, the birds are often besieged by over-eager listers. One thing for sure, south Texas was crawling with more birders than I have ever seen in one place.

While visiting our friends north of Edinburg, they asked if we would like to see a pygmy-owl. “Sure,” we replied, with low hopes for our success. But our hosts bought their ranch because it contains small patches of mesquite forest. In one of these, our friend played a pygmy-owl call on his phone. Within couple of minutes, this owl replied. I called out that the phone could be turned off. “I did a while ago,” was the reply. What I took to be the recording was actually a living owl.

Although under seven inches long and weighing 2.5 ounces, the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl is an opportunistic predator. Insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and small mammals all are included in this owl’s diet. Pygmy-owls are most active at dawn and dusk, but are also active during the daylight (Proudfoot and Johnson 2000).

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