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Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl: Fierce little owl of woods and deserts

A Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl looks down from a high branch. Photo by Dominic Sherony (Creative Commons)
A Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl looks down from a high branch. Photo by Dominic Sherony (Creative Commons)

Readers of BirdWatching in early 2013 voted Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl the eighth most-wanted bird in the United States and Canada. Here’s what you need to know to add it to your life list.

Description, range, and population

DESCRIPTION. About the size of a bluebird. Gray-brown above, streaked reddish brown below. Yellow eyes, long reddish tail. (ABA Code 3)

RANGE. South Texas (Kingsville), southern Arizona, Mexico to Argentina.

POPULATION. Not well known, but common in most of its range. 1990s estimates in South Texas: up to 1,800 owls. Currently about 20 in Arizona.

View a real-time eBird map

Viewing locations

TEXAS: King Ranch Norias Division, San Miguelito Ranch, El Canelo Ranch

ARIZONA: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, in and around the Altar Valley, and on Tohono O’odham tribal lands. Sightings are rare; only about 20 birds remain in Arizona. If you find one, do not announce its location.


High Lonesome Birdtours: Whooping Cranes and the Lower Rio Grande, February 21-March 1, 2014

Rockjumper Birding Tours: Texas — Whooping Cranes and the lower Rio Grande Valley, February 22-March 2, 2014

Wings: The Rio Grande Valley with Whooping Crane Extension, February 15-24, 2014; Mexico: The Yucatan and Cozumel, November 24-December 1, 2013, November 30-December 8, 2014

Bird Treks: South Texas, Lower Rio Grande Valley and the extreme South Texas Gulf Coast, February 14-23, 2014

Field Guides: Spring in South Texas, March 22-30, 2014, March 21-29, 2015

Birdquest: South Texas: Whooping Cranes and Rio Grande Valley specialties and migration, March 28-April 6, 2014

Victor Emanuel Nature Tours: Spring in South Texas, April 3-12, 2014

Note: Birding tours to Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and other destinations in Latin America, too numerous to list here, often find Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.


Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival, November 6-10, 2013, Harlingen, Texas

About our poll

We wanted to know, and you told us.

Earlier this year, we published a list of 240 bird species that occur in the United States and Canada and asked readers of BirdWatching magazine to choose the 10 that they wanted to see most.

We derived our list from the authoritative ABA Checklist. We included all rare, casual, and accidental species (ABA Checklist Codes 3, 4, and 5); regularly occurring North American species that are not widespread (Codes 1 and 2); and one species that was once dangerously close to extinction but today is surviving in captivity and struggling to become naturally re-established (Code 6). We omitted most species not native to North America.

Nearly 900 of our readers participated. Their 10 most-wanted birds include three owls, a handful of endangered species, a clown-faced puffin, a blue-footed seabird that is rarely spotted in the United States, and America’s one and only condor.

We presented the 10 most-wanted birds in the August 2013 issue of BirdWatching. Our article included not only the descriptions, population info, and eBird maps above but also 10 things you didn’t know about each species.

Originally Published

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