The Elf Owl is not only North America’s smallest owl but one of the smallest in the world. A nocturnal owl that is believed to completely leave the U.S. for Mexico in the winter. The owls tiny size makes it distinctive and not likely to be confused with any other owl except possibly the Pygmy-Owl, although it is about 2/3 the weight and 20% shorter in length. It also lacks the Pygmy’s distinctive chest streaking and has a significantly different call. Since this owl is not normally active in the daylight hours it also would not generally be confused with the Pygmy-Owl except possibly at dusk and dawn when both owls may be active. its desert habitat also separates this from the Northern Pygmy although it will move into lower canyons as nesting territory becomes scarce late in the spring. Separated from the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl by its shorter tail and more grayish brown (rather than rufus) upper parts. This is one of only two highly migratory species of owls in North America (the other being the Flammulated Owl) and both are also highly insectivorous. The Elf Owl has a horn color bill with a yellowish tip and edges and lemon yellow iris (eyes). This owl lacks ear tufts. Length is 5 3/4″ (smaller than a House Finch) and the sexes are alike.
Listen to the sound of Elf Owl
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
|wingspan min.:||0||cm||wingspan max.:||0||cm|
|size min.:||13||cm||size max.:||15||cm|
|incubation min.:||21||days||incubation max.:||25||days|
|fledging min.:||27||days||fledging max.:||28||days|
in deserts with many tall saguaro cactus or large mesquites, and in canyons in the foothills, especially around sycamores or large oaks.
Nest: Site is almost always in old woodpecker hole in tree or giant cactus (or in utility pole). Height varies: usually 15 -50′ above ground in streamside sycamores, 10-
30′ up in saguaros. No nest material added, eggs laid in bottom of cavity.
Clutch 3, sometimes 2 -4, rarely 1 -5. White. Incubation is by female only, about 24 days; male brings food to female during incubation.
Young: Female remains with young most of the time at first, while male brings food for female and young. After about 2 weeks, female hunts for food also. Young leave nest at about 27 –
28 days, are cared for by parents for at least several days thereafter.
Behavior: Hunts only at dusk and at night. Watches from a perch and swoops down to take prey from ground, or flies low, pausing to hover before pouncing.
Flies out from a perch to catch flying insects. May hover among foliage and catch insects that it flushes from the leaves. May remove stinger before eating scorpions.
Video Elf Owl
Migration: North of the Mexican border, strictly a summer resident, arriving early in spring and departing fairly early in fall.