When most people think about owls they think of massive winged wise creatures.
But that’s not the case when you come across an Elf Owl.
The Elf Owl looks like an elf, but it’s no bigger than a sparrow.
The Elf Owl is the world’s smallest raptor.
It lives in dry thorn forests, deserts, pine-oak forests, and riparian woodlands at the southern border of the U.S. and Mexico.
According to Audubon, the Elf Owl population has become “scarce” along the lower Colorado River and southern Texas due to a loss of habitat.
But you’ll still find lots of them in many parts of southern Arizona.
In addition to being similar in size, the Elf Owl also has similar habits to other songbirds in areas where they live, according to All About Birds.
You’ll often find them nesting in old woodpecker holes and other tree cavities.
These nests provide them with heat, and shelter from the bad weather. It also offers protection from predators like other owls, snakes, coyotes, and ringtails.
Like other desert birds that nest in cavities, Elf Owls will create condominium-like spaces where there are several cavities assembled on top and on the side of one another.
Other birds like Brown-crested Flycatchers, Gilded Flickers, Gila Woodpeckers, Elegant Trogons, Western Screech-Owls, and Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers also nest in this way.
Elf Owl nests will also contain tree ants which eat the remaining scraps of Elf Owl meals and other parasites.
Elf Owls come out at night to hunt insects, anthropods, moths, beetles, crickets, katydids, scorpions, spiders, and sometimes lizards and small vertebrates.
You can hear Elf Owls at night by listening for the puppy-like call the males give off. They make a yapping noise.
Some might say that Elf Owl is quite the odd bird. While many raptors will catch snakes and eat them, that’s not what Elf Owls do.
They catch snakes and bring them back to their nests so that the snakes can eat any parasites that might harm the owl’s nesting areas.
Elf owls will also sometimes gang up to go after certain predators like snakes, larger owls, and mammals.
This “mobbing” technique helps to deter predators by eliminating their ability to surprise the prey.
It also helps younger birds to recognize who their predators are.
But sometimes the Elf Owl is mobbed by other smaller bird groups like wrens, warblers, Bushtits, Bridled Titmice, and larger birds like the American Robin.
The oldest Elf Owl is said to have lived to the age of 5 years and 10 months.
Males will sing loudly and persistently throughout the night during nesting season to attract a female and defend their territory.
They sing from inside their nests to lure females inside. Males will feed their females during courtship.
The Elf Owls lack “ear tufts” or feathers on the tops of their heads, which are round.
Their eyes are a pale yellow in color and are highlighted by thin white lines that kind of look like eyebrows.
See this tiny Elf Owl in action in the video below!
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