Documentation of Northern Pygmy-Owl

Observer Information

Reporter:  Polly Neldner  PO Box 358,   La Veta, CO  81055
Other Observers:  None; Paul and Polly Neldner

Species, Date, Time and Location Information

Species:  Northern Pygmy-Owl
First Date/Time:  2/19/2011
Last Date/Time: 
Duration (total time in view):  We watched the bird for a total of 40 minutes during that time.
County:  Huerfano
Specific Location:  Bird was very close mile marker 13 on state Hwy 12, in a cottonwood directly over the highway.
Number:  1
Age:  Unknown
Sex:  Unknown
Plumage:  Other/Unknown


Mixed coniferous, deciduous area, with oak-brush on the opposite side of the road. Again bird was perched in a cottonwood.

Viewing Conditions

Optics:  Swarovski 8.5 X 42, Nikon 8 X 32 binoculars and 500 mm camera lens
Distance:  25 - 30 ft.
Light:  Late afternoon sun...partly cloudy. Bird was in full view and not obstructed or hindered by lighting conditions.

Description of the Bird

Bird gray-brown overall, heavily spotted crown, head and face, spots also quite visible on sides of breast and belly. Breast and belly were markedly streaked. Had false eye spots typical of all pygmy-owls.
Behaviors: We first observed the bird perched high on an exposed cottonwood branch directly over Hwy 12. We watched the bird as it watched us...and the traffic below. It would hear an oncoming car...turn it's head toward it and then continue to turn it's head as if watching the car. The bird never called. After 15 or so minutes spent just watching and enjoying the bird and lamenting we had not brought our cameras. We headed for home...grabbed our equipment and headed back up. The Northern Pygmy-Owl was still there more than 20 minutes later. We then spent another 20 minutes photographing it. While we knew it was aware of our presence. (it would respond to pishing by turning toward us) was not bothered by our presence or the continuing traffic. When it left it's perch we followed while it flew to the oak-brush on the opposite side of the highway and began to actively hunt.
Call: None heard.
Plumage: Adult Interior West

Similar Species Discussion

Bird lacked the streaking of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl which does not share it's range. This bird was gray-brown overall with spotted crown and top of head where as Ferruginous is orange-brown overall and has streaked crown. Ferruginous has unmarked sides, whereas this bird had spots going down it's sides. This bird had narrow blackish streaks on belly whereas Ferruginous has brown streaks. Tail of this bird, when visible, had narrow white bars. Ferruginous has broader, browner bars.

Resources Used

Sibley Guide to Birds

Previous Experience

We have seen Northern Pygmy-Owl last year up by Canon City. Have studied differences between it and Ferruginous although we have never seen one of those.


Notes made DURING observation

Additional Information

Comments: Photos supplied were taken by my husband, Paul. As we travel that road on an almost daily basis we are hoping to see the bird again.
Time: From 2:30 to approximately 3:30 p.m.
Elevation: Approximately 8,000 ft.
Other Dates:
Nearest Town: La Veta
Independent Observers: Paul and Polly Neldner

Materials Available

Photographer: Polly Wren Neldner

Photos |


Date Documentation Submitted

2/22/2011 11:37:00 AM
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