Elf Owl is the smallest owl in the world. They have a relatively small
range, summering in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, far southwestern
Texas, and parts of northern Mexico, and wintering in western Mexico.
In the U.S. portion of their range, they are most often found in the Sonoran
Desert, where they use woodpecker holes in saguaro cacti for nesting.
They also can be found in forested canyon areas. Due to their small
size, they are incapable of hunting most vertebrates, feeding very
heavily on insects, spiders, and scorpions.
Habitat: Elf Owls can be found in a variety of
lowland habitats, but are most commonly found in saguaro areas of the
Sonoran desert, and in forested canyons.
Diet: Mostly feeds on insects, scorpions and
spiders. Much less commonly, they will feed on very small lizards or
very small rodents.
Behavior: Nocturnal, typically only feeding right
at dusk or at night. Elf Owls watch for prey from a perch and then fly out
to capture prey when spotted. They can glean insects from foliage or
stems of plants, but are also capable of capturing flying insects in
Nesting: The nest of an Elf Owl is built in a
cavity in a tree or large cactus, most often using an old woodpecker hole.
The female alone incubates the eggs, but the male will bring her food during
that time. Both parents will help to raise the young, but the male
does nearly all the hunting for the first few weeks after the young hatch.
Song: The most commonly heard call of the Elf Owl
is a crisp high yap, but they also have other calls, including a soft
whistled mewing and a series of toots that ascend and then descend in pitch.
Migration: In the U.S. portion of its range, it is
only a summer visitor, as birds move southward into Mexico relatively early
in the fall. They are permanent residents throughout parts of their
range in Mexico, particularly in Baja California.
Unlikely to be confused with other owls, if seen well. Possibly
confused with Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Conservation Status: The
lists the Elf Owl as a species of "Least Concern." In the U.S. portion
of its range, it has declined in some locations due to habitat loss.
Photo Information: May 7th, 2008 - Outskirts of
Tucson, Arizona - Terry Sohl