Meet the charming Elf Owl, the world’s smallest owl.
The majority of people envision large, smart birds with wings when they think about owls.
But when you encounter an elf owl, such is not the case.
Although the Elf Owl is scarcely larger than a sparrow, it has an elf-like appearance.
The Elf Owl is the tiniest raptor in existence.
It inhabits riparian woodlands, pine-oak forests, deserts, and dry thorn forests along the southern border between the United States and Mexico.
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Due to habitat destruction, the Elf Owl population has reportedly become “scarce” along the lower Colorado River and in southern Texas, according to Audubon.
However there are still a lot of them to be found in several locations in southern Arizona.
According to All About Birds, the Elf Owl is comparable in size and behavior to other songbirds in the places where it lives.
They frequently make their nests in former woodpecker burrows and other tree cavities.
Their nests give them warmth and protection from the elements. Moreover, it provides defense against owl competitors, snakes, coyotes, and ringtails.
Elf Owls will build condominium-like structures where there are multiple cavities stacked on top of and to the sides of one another, just like other desert birds that nest in cavities.
This is also how nests of other species including Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Brown-crested Flycatchers, Gilded Flickers, Gila Woodpeckers, Elegant Trogons, and Western Screech-Owls are constructed.
Tree ants are often seen in elf owl nests where they consume parasites and any leftover food from the owls’ meals.
Elf Owls hunt insects, anthropods, moths, beetles, crickets, katydids, scorpions, spiders, and lizards and other small vertebrates occasionally. They are active at night.
By keeping an ear out for the puppy-like call that the male elf owls make, you can hear them at night. They bark, like dogs.
Elf Owls are thought to be rather unusual birds. Elf Owls don’t hunt for snakes to eat like many other raptors do.
In order for the snakes to consume any parasites that would disrupt the owls’ breeding regions, they capture snakes and return them to their nests.
Moreover, elf owls will occasionally band together to pursue specific predators like snakes, larger owls, and animals.
By removing their capacity to surprise the victim, this “mobbing” strategy aids in the deterrence of predators.
Also, it aids young birds in identifying their predators.
Yet occasionally, smaller flocks of birds like wrens, warblers, Bushtits, Bridled Titmice, and American Robins will surround the Elf Owl.
According to legend, the oldest elf owl lived for five years and ten months.
During nesting season, males would sing loudly and continuously throughout the night to entice a female and protect their territory.
To entice females inside of their nests, they sing. During courtship, males will feed their female partners.
The spherical tips of the elf owls’ heads are devoid of “ear tufts” or other feathers.
Their eyes have a light golden tint, and small white lines that resemble eyebrows accentuate them.
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