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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Northern Pygmy-Owl -- Glaucidium gnoma
(formerly Pygmy-Owl)

RANGE: Resident from southeastern Alaska, British Columbia, southwestern Alberta, and western Montana south, mostly in mountainous regions through southern California and interior Mexico to Central America, and extending east as far as central Colorado, central New Mexico, and extreme western Texas.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests in the West. In Arizona, prefers mixed oak-pine forests on south-facing slopes from 4,000 to 13,000 feet in elevation, but tends to frequent coniferous forests at the higher elevations; in California, occurs up to 6,000 feet, primarily in mixed scattered hardwoods and conifers. In the Rocky Mountains, occurs from 5,000 to 10,000 feet in dense pine forests or open areas with scattered trees; along the Pacific Coast, prefers dense damp forests of firs, redwoods, and cedars.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Natural cavities or old woodpecker holes for nesting.

NEST: Nests in abandoned cavities of the hairy woodpecker or northern flicker or natural cavities. Chooses cavities from 8 to 100 feet above the ground; in Rocky Mountains uses cavities up to 24 feet above the ground; in California, from 40 to 75 feet, and along the coast from 50 to 60 feet (but up to 100 feet) above the ground. May use the same nest site for several years.

FOOD: Primarily preys upon mice and large insects; also eats other small mammals, small birds, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, small snakes, lizards, and toads.

REFERENCES: Earhart and Johnson 1970, Heintzelman 1979, Karalus and Eckert 1974.

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