Pygmy owl

The owl is one of the smallest representatives of the owl family living in Europe and the Urals. In the common people, he is sometimes called an owl or a sparrow owl. These names are directly related to the fact that the size of the bird is almost the same as the size of a large sparrow. However, despite its diminutiveness and even some cuteness, the pygmy owl is a feathered predator.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Sparrow Owl

Photo: Sparrow Owl

Little Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) — a species of predatory birds, which in ornithology belongs to the order & # 171; Owls & # 187; and the «Owl« family. This is one of the smallest owls with a body length of up to 16 cm, a weight of up to 100 g and a wingspan of up to 40 cm. Males and females of these birds look almost the same, except for the difference in size: females are somewhat larger. The facial disc, unlike ordinary owls, is not too pronounced in the Pyarrow Owl.

Video: Pyarrow Owl

Feathers on the upper body of adult birds are grayish-brown, less often — into brown. The tail feathers on the wings have a noticeable white pattern, and small white feathers are scattered all over the owl's body. The underside of the owl's body is light, almost white, with noticeable brown stripes. On his chest and goiter, a darker spot is clearly visible, dotted with small white spots.

The tail, depending on the general color, is colored brown or gray. Regardless of the general color of the plumage, there are five long light stripes on the tail of the owl. Young birds of the first year of life differ markedly from adults in appearance by the absence of white blotches in the plumage on the head, as well as a duller brown or gray color of the rest of the plumage.

Appearance and Features

Photo: How the Owl looks like

Photo: What a sparrow owl looks like

A densely spotted plumage color is very characteristic of a sparrow owl, which is much less typical of its other relatives. Moreover, the color of the birds is the same regardless of the gender of the birds.

The upper part of their body is usually gray or gray-brown with frequent small white patches, and the lower part is white with clearly distinguishable longitudinal brown stripes. Multiple white blotches are also found on the owl's head, but there are many more of them on the back. On the chest of birds there is a darker spot with small white marks.

The head of the Owl is not too big, round, slightly flattened with a bright yellow small curved beak. The facial disc of the species is barely noticeable, and the feather ears, characteristic of all owls, are completely absent. The eyes of the birds are medium in size, with a bright yellow iris (almost identical in color to the beak) and dark pupils, framed by barely pronounced blurry brown and white circles.

Quite thick light «eyebrows» literally hang low over the eyes, giving the bird a very stern and strict look. The paws of the pygmy owl are feathered, and quite densely and almost to the very claws. All four fingers have very sharp, long, strong, curved claws.

Where does the pygmy owl live?

Photo: Little Owl in Russia

Photo: Little Owl in Russia

In the natural environment, the pygmy owl is most common in Europe and Asia, up to the Arctic Circle, but most often it can be observed in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. On the territory of Russia, birds are found in fairly vast expanses from Sakhalin Island (in the east) to the Kola Peninsula (in the north). The pygmy owl is also very widespread in Transbaikalia, Altai, and Manchuria. This species is also found in Belarus, but quite rarely.

These birds are considered sedentary, however, in very severe winters, with a lack of food, they can massively migrate from the northern regions to more southern ones and remain there until the onset of spring. For life, owls most often choose very dense coniferous forests (mainly old deaf spruce forests) or the same dense, almost impenetrable mixed forests with a predominance of conifers.

Interesting fact: Every owl has its own personal hunting grounds, which can be of different sizes in different seasons: in summer — 500 sq. meters, and in winter — 1000 sq. meters.

Birds usually build their nests in hollows of coniferous trees (pines, spruces), sometimes birch, aspen or beech, where woodpeckers, squirrels or other owls used to live. The main requirement for a dwelling is the hollow itself and the inlet in it must be small so that predators cannot get there and destroy the nest.

Now you know where the owl is found. Let's see what it eats.

What does the pygmy owl eat?

Photo: Barn Owl

Photo: Sparrow Owl

As already mentioned, sparrow owls are predators, so they feed exclusively on animal food. Their diet depends on the season. For example, in summer and autumn they catch various small mouse-like rodents.

In winter and early spring, small birds of the passerine family predominate in the diet of owls:

  • sparrows;
  • tits;
  • bullfinches;
  • nuthatches.

It is worth noting that, unlike its larger relatives, the pygmy owl, having caught prey, does not swallow it whole, but savor it for a long time, carefully plucking out small pieces. At the same time, he tries to choose the most delicious and never touches the intestines.

Interesting fact: Sparrow owls often store food for future use. They do this in cold weather, at sub-zero air temperatures, and hide their supplies in old uninhabited hollows.

In relation to their hunting area, the birds are distinguished by enviable constancy and can only leave it in winter, when the number of small living creatures in the forest is significantly reduced. For this reason, during the winter months, pygmy owls are quite often found on the outskirts of small towns and villages. There they hunt sparrows and thus wait out an unfavorable period.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Owl in nature

Photo: Owl in nature

The pygmy owl is most active at dawn or in the evening twilight, less often during the day. Unlike their shy and incredulous relatives, this species of owls is quite inquisitive. Moreover, curiosity is so obvious that the owls are practically not afraid of either people or dogs and can fly up to them quite close – at a distance of up to 5 meters. Sitting close on a branch, the pygmy owl usually examines the object of its curiosity for a very long time, twitching its tail.

Owls fly quickly and easily, flying about 30 meters in one run, sometimes fluttering back and forth for short distances. At the same time, they show maneuverability and agility. Birds prefer to wait for their prey sitting on a branch of a tree. Noticing the prey, they rapidly take off and grab it with their tenacious claws. It has been noted that, unlike other owls, sparrow owls sometimes even engage in stalking. Owls are also not averse to hunting near bird feeders, because there is nothing easier than catching a tit or a sparrow while feeding.

Fun Fact: Owls are, in a sense, food gourmets. This is manifested by the fact that, having caught a small bird or mouse, the birds first carefully remove feathers or wool from the carcass, and only then proceed to the meal. It often happens that they eat only the head of the prey they catch.

In late autumn or early spring, birds often stock up on food, dragging the prey into some hollow for storage. It has been estimated that only one “pantry” can store several dozen carcasses of mice or small birds. By the way, find the «storage room» owl is not difficult – it gives out a lot of food leftovers at the foot of the tree.

Unlike other birds that nest in hollows, the pygmy owl also does not worry too much about disguising its home and unmasks it, throwing out its leftovers and shells from there after hatching.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Owl in Winter

Photo: Sparrow Owl in Winter

Sparrow owls (both females and males) reach sexual maturity at the age of 1 year. The mating season for sparrow owls usually lasts from February to May. At this time, males tend to attract the attention of females with characteristic whistling trills. They usually whistle at dusk, but if the weather is cloudy, then during the day. Peak «love serenades» falls in April, besides, the evening songs of the owls are louder than the daytime or morning ones. The voice of the owls is very reminiscent of the chirping of sparrows.

The process of getting to know the male with the «bride» in owls, it begins with the demonstration by the male of his dwelling – a hollow. If the female is satisfied with the dwelling, then she remains there and thus a new married couple is created. Pairs of owls form for life. Since males are usually very attached to their hunting area, their nesting place does not change for several years in a row.

Before starting a life together, the couple does a thorough cleaning in the hollow. The number of eggs in a clutch depends on the abundance of food. Under favorable conditions, this can be 5-7 eggs, if there are problems with the extraction of food, then only 2-3 eggs. Eggs are laid at intervals of a couple of days. They are usually almost round, white, up to 25 mm in diameter.

A pair of owls incubate the clutch for a month. At the same time, the female sits in the nest, and the male provides food first for her, and then for the chicks. Chicks are not born together, but one by one. They are covered with light fluff. For the first 8-10 days, the female does not leave the nest, warming the chicks.

An interesting fact: While sitting on the nest, the female gradually expands it, picking off pieces of wood and throwing them out.

After 3 weeks, the chicks begin to look out of the hollow. Parents now and then fly to them to feed or clean the nest. The chicks feed first on insects and their larvae, and then on small rodents. Gradually, the fluff on the body of the chicks is replaced by plumage, the same as that of the parents, only darker shades. A month and a half after birth, young owls leave the nest and become completely independent.

Natural sparrow owl enemies

Photo: What a pygmy owl looks like

Photo: What a sparrow owl looks like

Although sparrow owls are predators, they have a lot of natural enemies. This is due to their innate curiosity and almost complete lack of caution as such. Curious birds can be preyed upon by foxes and wolves, as well as some felids and mustelids. Yes, if the bird was scared at least once, then in the future it will become more cautious (of course, if it survived).

Even less secure are the nests of pygmy owls, their eggs and chicks. As you know, birds nest in the hollows of old trees and it happens that the hole in the hollow (notch) is large enough for any predator to easily crawl into it, be it a larger owl, owl or marten. In addition, squirrels often sin by ruining bird nests, willingly eating eggs.

Interesting fact: Pygmy owl chicks leave the parental nest at the same time. At the first flight of chicks from the nest, parents are always nearby to come to the rescue. First, the chicks fly ten meters, and then more and more.

The chicks that barely fledged are also under considerable threat. After all, at first the flyers of them are unimportant. This is where a fox, a marten or a lynx can catch them. Yes, the parents of the chicks are always nearby, but in the event of an attack by a larger predator, they will not be able to help the chicks in any way. To be honest, man himself is also an enemy for birds, due to his activities and great desire to establish his own rules everywhere.

Population and species status

Photo: Owl bird

Photo: Owl bird

Owls belonging to the order Strigiformes and the family Strigidae have been given the following names by ornithologists:

  • Glaucidium passerinum (scientific);
  • Pygmy Owl (English).

Despite the rather wide distribution of pygmy owls in Asia, Europe, Scandinavia, in a number of regions this species is considered quite rare. Not so long ago, researchers proved that the main negative factors that significantly affect the growth of the population of pygmy owls in the Urals and in other protected regions are, first of all, sanitary cuttings, as well as cutting down old forests. After all, birds settle in the hollows of old trees, and after such such interference in the ecosystem, it turns out that they lose their homes and hunting grounds.

It is also worth noting that sparrow owls take root very poorly in captivity. It has been noticed that most of the caught chicks live outside their usual natural habitat for no more than 2-3 months, and then die. According to the view of the majority of the inhabitants who are not related to ornithology as a science, an owl (owl) & # 8212; this is a bird that looks like an owl or a cartoon character about Winnie the Pooh. That is, it is a rather large, clumsy, cautious nocturnal bird with large eyes, a constantly surprised expression and a slightly increased intelligence.

It is worth noting that all the above qualities are completely unsuitable for a pygmy owl bird. When you learn more about this bird, you get the impression that the species, if it has any kindred ties with owls, is very distant and insignificant.

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