World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0001914287
Reproduction Date:

Title: Micrathene  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Owl, True owl
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Elf Owl
Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi) 29APR12 Madera Canyon AZ
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Micrathene
Coues, 1866
Species: M. whitneyi
Binomial name
Micrathene whitneyi
(Cooper, 1861)

The Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi) is a member of the owl family Strigidae, that breeds in the southwestern United States and Mexico. It is the world's lightest owl, although the Long-whiskered Owlet and the Tamaulipas Pygmy Owl are of a similarly diminutive length.[2] The mean body weight of this species is 40 grams (1.4 oz). These tiny owls are 12.5 to 14.5 centimetres (4.9 to 5.7 in) long and have a wingspan of about 27 cm (10.6 in).[3] Their primary projection extends nearly past their tail. They have fairly long legs and often appear bow-legged. They can often be heard calling to one another just after dusk or at sunset. Their call is a high-pitched whinny or chuckle. The male and female dart around trees and call back and forth.


Elf Owls usually choose abandoned, north-facing woodpecker cavities in Saguaro cacti,[4] sycamores, cottonwoods and other hardwood trees, to raise their young. The female usually lays three round white eggs. The eggs are incubated for about 3 weeks before the chicks hatch. The young owlets fledge at about 10 weeks. Usually, chicks are born in mid-June or early July. By the end of July, they are almost always fledged and ready to set out on their own.


They are often found in chaparral, and are easily found during their breeding season. They live in cacti much like some birds, using the shade and climate the tree provides.

Elf Owls usually are not aggressive and feign death in any dangerous situation, especially when a threatening animal comes inside their Saguaro cactus.


The Elf Owl migrates to Arizona and New Mexico in the spring and summer. In the winter, it is found in central and southern Mexico. Migrant Elf Owls return north in mid-August or early May.


Elf Owls feed mainly on insects and therefore occupy habitats with a ready supply of these. Agaves and ocotillos are ideal places for foraging as moths and other insects may sleep in their flowers. They are often seen chasing after flying insects, with a flight similar to a tyrant flycatcher's


Elf Owls live 3 to 6 years; in captivity they may live up to 10 years.[5]


The following subspecies are currently recognized:[6]

  • Micrathene whitneyi graysoni Ridgway, 1886 (extinct)
  • Micrathene whitneyi idonea (Ridgway, 1914)
  • Micrathene whitneyi sanfordi (Ridgway, 1914)
  • Micrathene whitneyi whitneyi (J. G. Cooper, 1861)

M. w. idonea, the subspecies in southernmost Texas to central Mexico is resident, as are the isolated M. w. sanfordi of southernmost Baja California and M. w. graysoni (Socorro Elf Owl) of Socorro Island, south-west from the tip of Baja California. The Socorro Elf Owl apparently became extinct in the late 20th century, probably around 1970.


External links

  • Elf Owl photo-High Res, & Article
  • Elf Owl photo gallery VIREO
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.