The Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Glaucidium passerinum, is the smallest owl in Europe. These owls are a dark reddish to greyish-brown, with spotted sides and half of a white ring around the back of their neck.
The owl preys on birds "? some nearly as large as itself "? and small mammals, such as voles.
It is found in the boreal forests of Northern and Central Europe to Siberia, usually at the edges of clearings. It nests in old Woodpecker holes, often those of the Great Spotted Woodpecker.
This is a sedentary species, meaning that adults are resident throughout the year in its range. The exception would be during harsh winters, when the adults may move south. Young of the species usually move in fall or winter. In the wild Eurasian Pygmy Owls may live six to seven years and sometimes even longer in captivity.
This Starling-sized bird hunts at dawn, dusk, and even daytime, rather than in total darkness.
Eurasian Pygmy Owls can be found primarily in coniferous forests of the boreal zone and higher mountainous regions with coniferous and mixed forests. These areas generally have cooler temperatures and higher rainfall than nearby lowland regions. Eurasian Pygmy Owls' nest sites are often surrounded by moist or swampy land, in groups of young spruces with a water source nearby. They nest in tree cavities, usually being old woodpecker holes.
The Eurasian Pygmy Owl is usually red tinged to a grayish-brown with dots on his/her back. The tail is generally darker than the body with 5 narrow, whitish bars. In order to be able to carry larger vertebrate prey, they have adapted disproportionately large feet. The pygmy owl has a small, short head with white to gray eyebrows and yellow eyes. However, it has no ear tufts like most other owls. There is a white half collar on the back of the neck. The belly is mostly white with brown speckles. The beak of the Eurasian Pygmy Owl is a grayish yellow and hook shaped. The legs and toes are a brownish-yellow with black talons. Female owls are generally bigger than the males. The length of the males is about 15.2 to 17cm (6-6.7"), and the length of females is anywhere from 17.4 to 19cm (6.8-7.5"). Males weigh about 50-65g (1.76-2.3oz), and females weigh about 67 to 77g (2.36-2.7oz).
The call of the Eurasian Pygmy Owl is much higher pitched than what is generally perceived as a normal owl "hooting"? sound. The call almost sounds squeaky. The male's normal call is quite monotonous. It consists of clear, fluted notes spaced by about two seconds. The females' call is similar to the males', the only difference being that the female call is higher pitched. Before and after the mating season, both males and females make a five to seven note rise on the pitch scale.
Chicks in a nest box
Eurasian Pygmy Owls nest in tree cavities; many times in old woodpecker holes. The trees are usually coniferous like the forests in which they prefer to live. Although, in some cases they will also nest in birch and beech trees. The owls form mating pairs in autumn and late winter/early spring. As a courtship ritual, the male leads the female around and shows her his territory. If the male uses the same nest as the previous breeding season, then this will be the only one he shows her. The male will also feed the female.
Eurasian Pygmy Owls are serially monogamous, meaning that they only have one mate at a time; therefore, the two owls may pair for more than one breeding season. The male Eurasian Pygmy Owls are very territorial and may use the same nesting territory for up to 7 years. The female lays about four to seven eggs around the first half of April. Their incubation period is four weeks and is said to begin when the third egg is laid. The eggs hatch all around the same time and the female cares for them for the next nine to ten days. During this time, the male continues to feed the female pygmy owl. After three weeks, the young begin to look out of the nest and the female only enters the nest to bring them food or clean out waste. After thirty to thirty four days, the young leave the nest. After leaving the nest, offspring remain close for several more days for food and guidance, and then depart to find their own territory.
The diet of the Eurasian Pygmy Owl includes mostly small vertebrate mammals like voles, lemmings, and mice. They may also catch small birds like thrushes, crossbills, chaffinches, and leaf-warblers. They are even able to catch these prey birds in flight sometimes. Other prey may include small lizards, bats, fish, and insects. During the winter months, the owls may store food in tree cavities. Because these small owls lack the ability to fly silently, they are mostly diurnal. This means that they are mostly active during the daytime, a unique trait since most people think of all owls as being nocturnal creatures. This is advantageous because much of their prey is also diurnal. The owls are most active just before sunrise and shortly after sunset.
The Eurasian Pygmy Owl can be found in Northern and Central Europe, and east to Siberia. Adult owls may move south in severe winter months. Adolescents are found moving around in fall and winter.