Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Proportional Response

I heard the chattering alarm of the wren first, just down slope in a mix of oaks and chaparral.

Then the wren zipped up into a valley oak, where several hummingbirds were also all-a-buzz.

And, while the sun angle was poor, I thought I could see another small bird in the branches.

Brown back, streaky white-brown breast, long tail... fox sparrow? Naw.

pygmy owl

My friends threw out "helpful" ideas.

"It's just a gall. Or lichen."

"Then why did it just turn its head and look at me?," I replied.

pygmy owl

A little predator? I noodled and moved toward a better angle.

"Oh - I see, said the same friend. Is it an owl?"


"Yes, that's exactly right - it's a pygmy owl."

About 6 inches tall and 2.5 ounces in weight, pygmy owls hunt small birds. Hence the harassing by the hummers and wren.

It was a proportional response.

And the four of us without binocs or big lenses. Dang.

But the pint-size predator did nicely kick-back and give us all a good gaze. And a few croppable point-and-shoot pics.

pygmy owl

pygmy owl

I've had glancing views and heard their calls before, but never long looks.

A daymaker species, for sure.



  1. I just love owls! What a great catch! The photos with the evergreens in the background are amazing.

  2. Oh, wow, THAT is FABulous. I've seen one pygmy owl in daylight through a very similar circumstance. Walking back from Yosemite Falls (the foresty, long way) and heard little birds freaking out, so looked and looked and looked and looked and FINALLY found it. I was THRILLED. No binos, no camera, but I was super thrilled. Also, sometimes it's useful to hike alone 'cause not everyone wants to stand and stare and stare and stare to try and find the cause of the ruckus. That's a real coup to find & PHOTOGRAPH it. Congratulations. =) ('course I now I want to know where you were...)

  3. What a cool find! And great shot, especially considering your lack of a really long lens. I'm fascinated by the length of the tail for an owl. Another great share!

  4. Wonderful, congratulations!

  5. Great story and photos. Reminds me of a time in Singayta, Mexico when I saw a Happy Wren scolding a knot of curled, dead leaves on a branch. Then the knot turned its head and looked at me with fierce yellow eyes. It was a Colima Pymy Owl. What a thrill.

  6. Maybe the pygmy owl just likes oaks. Everybody likes to perch in an oak tree in the sun.

  7. That was a really good find, and those are pretty nice photos.

  8. Cool! I used a pigmy owl call with a little owl model a couple years ago and got several pictures of a sharp-shinned hawk. Just before dusk. Its intentions weren't as nice as yours.


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