Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)

Northern Pygmy Owl


  • The northern pygmy owl can be distinguished by its small size. It is about 16 centimetres (6 inches) long.


Identifying traits for this species include:

  • Earless head
  • Dark brown plumage
  • Heavily streaked undersides
  • Long, barred tail
  • Upper parts are dark grey-brown speckled with white
  • Two black "eye-spots" are located on the back of the head
  • Under-parts are predominantly white with large grey-brown patches on the sides of the breast and dark streaks throughout
  • The northern pygmy owl ranges from Alaska to Central America, mainly west of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Can be found in the foothill and Rocky Mountain regions.
  • During various winters, sightings have been recorded from Banff National Park and mountainous areas further north.
Natural History


  • This owl prefers open coniferous and mixed-wood forests.


  • Northern pygmy owls swoop down from perch to perch and onto mice and other small mammals that make up its diet.

When Active

  • Resident in Alberta throughout the year.
  • Is a daylight hunter.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • No nest is made.
  • Three to four eggs are laid in cavities in trees.
Conservation and Management


The northern pygmy owl is classified as Sensitive in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Also see the Status of the Northern Pygmy Owl in Alberta report at:

Current management

  • Like all birds of prey in Alberta, the northern pygmy owl is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act.


  • Breeding habitat is threatened by forestry operations.
Similar species
Related links


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014