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Healthy Animals, Healthy People, Healthy Planet

Hurik- Northern Pygmy Owl

Hurik means small fire in Armenian. Hurik came to the VTH in October of 2014. He had a left elbow dislocation and some swelling at the left wrist. Over the first night Hurik chewed at his left wrist and caused enough damage that we needed to amputate his left wing to the elbow. Once healed, we started training him to be an educational bird.

Northern Pygmy owls can raise a pair of tufts on the sides of their head when threatened by a predator, such as a hawk or a cat. They also have a pair of spots on the back of their neck that look a little like eyes. Scientists believe these markings may help fool attackers or mobbers into thinking the owl is watching them.

Northern Pygmy Owls are monogamous, at least within one year’s breeding season. Males attract females to their nest site by perching at the entrance and giving a tooting call. Both parents take part in providing food for young, with the male bringing much of the prey and female feeding it to the young. Pygmy owls nest in cavities in trees, either in a natural hollow or in abandoned woodpecker holes. Pygmy owls are crepuscular, meaning they hunt most actively near dawn and dusk. Prey includes rodents, birds, insects, and lizards. Diet varies with the location and the season. Rodents such as voles and mice are often major prey. During warm weather, pygmy owls eat many large insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, and beetles. Small songbirds are sometimes up to ⅓ of the diet. Because of this it is common to find small birds such as hummingbirds, wrens, warblers, jays and blackbirds mobbing pygmy owls. One way to find these small owls is by following a noisy commotion of songbirds that is focused on one location. In southern parts of their range they may catch more lizards. When they find extra food, they often cache their prey in tree cavities, or by hanging the prey on thorns, as shrikes are famous for doing.

Pygmy owls are found in a wide variety of forest types, including open oak groves, sycamores in canyons, pike-oak woodlands and coniferous forests in the far north and high mountains. Generally they are found in partly open habitats rather than solid unbroken forests. The northern pygmy owl is native to Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The main predators of Northern Pygmy owls are larger owls and raptors as well as some mammals such as weasels. Most owls have asymmetrically placed ears as well as flattened facial discs around the eyes. Both of these adaptations however are not found in pygmy owls due to their diurnal habits and great reliance on vision.

Washington State University