Animals / Types of Birds / Owls / Elf Owl - Tiny Family-Oriented North American Bird

Elf Owl - Tiny Family-Oriented North American Bird

owl on tree branch


At only 5 to 6 inches (12.5-15 cm) tall, and weighing in at only 1.4 oz (40 g), the elf owl which lives primarily in the wooded canyons and deserts of Southeastern America and Northern Mexico, is one of the smallest owls in the world. They have rounded heads and what looks like white eyebrows.

Like most owls, they are primarily nocturnal, and spend most of their days roosting in trees or bushes, before coming out at night to hunt. Once out, they use their claws and beaks to hunt primarily insects (although they have been known to catch the occasional small snake or tiny lizard). They can be seen catching anything beetles, moths, grasshoppers, crickets, and even scorpions (they somehow destroy the stinger and avoid being poisoned).

Elf owls who live in the desert have been observed making homes inside of cacti (such as the saguaro) and feeding on the various insects that share their home. They also use tree hollows to rest and hide out in. It makes it hard for possible predators to get a hold of them.



eating bug


elf owl in cactus casa


elf owl in cactus house


Elf owls can usually be heard just after dusk communicating with each other from the trees with high pitched screeches and chuckles. The communicating also takes the form of song. When a male is ready to mate, he will nest in a deserted woodpecker hole, or cactus, and sing his mating call to attract a female. Once she arrives, the male and female establish a little family unit, as the female lays eggs which she protects while the male goes out and finds food for her. After her eggs hatch, the male will continue to hunt on behalf of his young until they are ready to leave the nest. Although tiny in size, the elf owl is big on family, and it's through this method of protecting their young that the elf owls are able to preserve their species.


oak tree




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