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Micrathene

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Micrathene

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.

Reproduction

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.

Behavior

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.

Migrating

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.

Diet

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

Lifespan

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

Subspecies

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.

References

External links

  • Elf Owl photo-High Res, & Article fireflyforest.net
  • Elf Owl photo gallery VIREO
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