Facilitating the protection and restoration of species and ecosystems at risk on BC’s South Coast
Length: 15.5-18 cm. As the name implies Northern Pygmy Owl are small owls. As with several other owl species, they are “earless” (lacking ear tufts on the head). Adult plumage for this subspecies is the same on both sexes and “reverse sexual dimorphism” (females being larger than males) is evident. The body is plump with a long narrow tail that the bird flicks up and down when perching. Dorsal and wing plumage is brown to reddish brown with large white spots. The head is brown, speckled with white and the yellow eyes have white eyebrows. Chest and belly plumage is creamy white with dark bars and streaks. The long dark brown tail has white horizontal barring. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but do not develop spots on the body or head until they mature. This owl is diurnal (active during the day) and more specifically crepuscular (hunt at dawn and dusk), and is often a target of defensive aerial “mobbing” from other birds (e.g. crows). Two distinct black “eyespots” outlined in white on the back of the head are thought to confuse and distract birds when they attack, possibly protecting the front of the head and eyes. Recent DNA evidence suggests the present designation of G. gnoma may warrant reclassification to G. californicum, composed of four distinct western races in North America. There has been little studied on the swarthi subspecies and much about its biology is inferred from the mainland form.
B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 2016. [Internet] [Updated March 05, 2015]. Conservation Status Report: Glaucidium gnoma swarthi. B.C. Minist. of Environment. B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 2010. [Internet] [Updated August 3 1997]. Species Summary: Glaucidium gnoma swarthi. B.C. Minist. of Environment.
Cooper, J. and S. M. Beauchesne. 2004. [Internet] Accounts and Measures for Managing Identified Wildlife – Accounts V. 2004. Northern Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium gnoma swarthi
Darling, L. M. 2003. [Internet]. Status of Vancouver Island Northern pygmy-owl (Glaucidium gnoma swarthi) in British Columbia. (Wildlife bulletin; no. B-113)
Demarchi, M.W. and M.D. Bently. 2005/2013. [Internet].Best Management Practices for Raptor Conservation during Urban and Rural Land Development in British Columbia. B.C. Minist. of Environ., Victoria, B.C. Minist. of Environment BMP Series.
Heritage Community Foundation. [Internet] . Reprinted from Alberta Wildlife Status Report No. 8 (1998), with permission from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. Northern Pygmy Owl.
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks Resources Inventory Branch. [Internet].2001. RISC standards # 11 Inventory Methods for Raptors (Version 2.0).
Owling.com. 2001. [Internet] . Northern Pygmy-Owl Biology. A Reference for North and Central American Owls.
Proulx, G. et al. 2003. A Field Guide to Species at Risk in the Coast Forest Region of British Columbia. Published by International Forest Products and BC Minist. of Environment. Victoria (BC).
Species Profile prepared by: Pamela Zevit of Adamah Consultants for the South Coast Conservation Program (SCCP) in partnership with:
International Forest Products (Interfor), Capacity Forestry (CapFor) and the BC Ministry of Environment (BC MoE). Funding for this factsheet
was made possible through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI): http://www.sfiprogram.org/
Updated and revised by: Isabelle Houde, RPBio in consultation with the SCCP. Part of the National Conservation Plan, this project was
undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada. Dans le cadre du Plan de Conservation National, ce projet a été réalisé
avec l’appui financier du Gouvernement du Canada.
Every effort has been made to ensure content accuracy. Comments or corrections should be directed to the South Coast Conservation
Program: firstname.lastname@example.org. Content updated January 2016.
Image Credits: Northern Pygmy-owl (front and back): Gord Gadsden, Northern Pygmy “Owlet” (juvenile): Sonoma Wildlife Rescue
Association CA, Northern Saw-whet Owl mainland form: Brendan Ially (Flickr), Habitat: Pamela Zevit. Only images sourced from “creative
commons” sources (e.g. Wikipedia, Flickr, U.S. Government) can be used without permission and for non-commercial purposes only. All other
images have been contributed for use by the SCCP and its partners/funders only.