Why Is The Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl Endangered

2021 deadline for Endangered Species Act decision set by court agreement

Noah Greenwald, the Center’s director for endangered species, said, “We’re so relieved this small owl will finally have another chance at urgently needed protection.

Without the pygmy owl snatching lizards from the Sonoran Desert ground and bringing them back to saguaro cavities to feed their young, the desert wouldn’t be the same.

From 1997 to 2006, the pygmy owl was listed as an endangered species, but after an industry lawsuit, the Bush administration decided to revoke that designation. This choice was made on the false justification that the Sonoran Desert population, which includes parts of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, was not important rather than on any increase in the pygmy owl’s population. Monitoring for the owl and other protective measures mainly stopped after 2006.

Jason Rylander, a senior attorney with Defenders of Wildlife, stated that the pygmy owl’s protections should never have been removed.

However, there is still time to save them. We are urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act in accordance with the science and stop the pygmy owl from permanently disappearing from the Sonoran Desert.

More than 1 million species are at risk of extinction, according to a frightening assessment released earlier this year by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a United Nations panel made up of hundreds of scientists from around the world. The pygmy owl, like many of these species, is in danger from habitat loss brought on by urban sprawl, livestock grazing, and the conversion of native desert to African buffelgrass.

“The extinction problem must be stopped, according to Greenwald, starting right here at home. “We must take more action to prevent habitat destruction for the pygmy owl and many other species that are in danger, especially as climate change approaches.

The pygmy owl was protected as an endangered species in Arizona from 1997 to 2006 in response to a 1992 petition by the Center. However, protections were eliminated in 2006 due to a technicality when developers filed a lawsuit in 2001. After the Center and Defenders submitted a fresh petition in 2007, their request for protection was denied in 2011, and they successfully challenged the decision in court in 2017. With today’s decision, the pygmy owl’s status as a protected species will finally be reviewed.

Why is the desert pygmy owl in danger?

Pygmy owls were given endangered status in Arizona from 1997 to 2006 as a result of a 1992 petition from the Center, but after developers sued the Service and won, the owls’ protection was revoked. The plan to safeguard the tiny, endangered owls across their range in Arizona, Texas, and portions of northern Mexico is the outcome of a battle between The Center and Defenders to restore protection for them.

“The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl faces extremely serious risks, but Noah Greenwald, the Center’s director of endangered species, is happy that it will now finally receive much-needed protection under the Endangered Species Act. “As we watch, the Sonoran Desert is disintegrating. The pygmy owl and the saguaro cactuses it lives in will only be a memory if we don’t take quick action.

Urbanization and the rapid expansion of invasive buffelgrass, which spreads fire and kills the columnar cactuses and other desert plants the owl depends on, are threats to the species in Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. Additionally, droughts brought on by climate change pose a threat to it. In Arizona, the number of pygmy owls has decreased to the low hundreds.

The little but fierce cactus ferruginous pygmy owl is the best sign of the health of the stunning Sonoran Desert, according to Greenwald.

Saving this tiny owl means preserving the beloved desert environments.

Pygmy owl populations in Texas and Chihuahua, Mexico, are fragmented by increasing human population and agricultural development. Pygmy owl populations are higher further south in western Mexico, including parts of Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, and Michoacan, but habitat degradation due to agriculture and urbanization is ongoing, and the species is predicted to continue to decline.

The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl is typically under 7 inches long, weighs less than 2.6 ounces, and has a cream-colored belly with reddish brown streaks all around. On the back of their heads, they have two dark brown or black dots that resemble eyes.

These owls utilise cavities dug out by woodpeckers and other species in saguaro cacti and other trees because they are secondary cavity nesters. They eat many kinds of flies, lizards, and small mammals. The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl makes a series of toots when claiming a territory or calling to mates, just as other pygmy owls.

How come owls are in danger?

Because they reside underground in burrows created by tiny mammals like ground squirrels and prairie dogs, burrowing owls get their name. They are among the tiniest owls in North America, and their habitat is being destroyed due to alterations in land use.

The majority of snowy owls are white, with a few scattered, thin brown bars and patches. They are among the biggest owl species in North America, and habitat and prey loss due to climate change pose a threat to them.

The head, neck, back, and underparts of the northern spotted owl are covered in round or oval white spots that range in size from dark to chestnut brown. The northern spotted owl is among the largest in North America, despite sometimes being categorized as a medium-sized owl. It inhabits old-growth woods. Threats to them include habitat loss from logging, climate change, and competition with growing populations of barred owls.

Another tiny owl that is genuinely nocturnal, unlike most other owls, is the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. Pygmy owls are in danger due to habitat degradation, fragmentation, invasive species, and a lack of protection from the Endangered Species Act.

Defenders and other conservation organizations petitioned the state of California to list the owl under the state’s Endangered Species Act in April 2003 due to the huge reductions of burrowing owls in the state of California. Despite the petition’s failure, we are still fighting for burrowing owls. We are striving to preserve crucial habitat in Florida.

We are battling to stop climate change and preserve crucial snowy owl habitat in the Arctic, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

We are working to safeguard the northern spotted owl’s habitat and plan forests in the Pacific Northwest.

Due to Defenders’ pressure and habitat loss, cactus ferruginous pygmy-owls were placed on the endangered species list in 1997. However, this listing lasted only until 2009, when developers were successful in persuading a federal court that because pygmy owls are present in Mexico, they are also capable of becoming extinct in the United States. We are also working against the border wall, which will divide populations of this tiny, low-flying owl.

Pygmy owls are they protected?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently recommended to once again list cactus ferruginous pygmy owls as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, following more than ten years of petitions and legal actions by Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

After developers successfully sued FWS, the owl lost its ESA protections as an endangered species in Arizona in 2006. Given that the owl’s population is dropping across much of its territory in Arizona, Texas, and northern Mexico, the proposed regulation would protect the bird as a threatened species.

The pygmy owl was protected as an endangered species in Arizona from 1997 to 2006 in response to a petition submitted in 1992. However, protections were eliminated in 2006 due to a technicality when developers filed a lawsuit in 2001.

Defenders and CBD submitted a fresh petition in 2007, which resulted in a rejection of protection in 2011 and a victory for the organizations in court in 2017. As the owl population continues to be threatened by encroaching development, dangerous weeds, livestock grazing, and more regular droughts brought on by climate change, both groups pushed to reinstall safeguards for the bird. The species is also in danger from invasive plants like buffelgrass, which speed up fires that devastate its habitat and food sources, and the border wall, which divides owl populations.

The little owls spend the entire year in what is left of their habitat close to the Mexican border.

What owl is the tiniest?

BirdNote, a National Audubon Society affiliate, is the provider of this audio story. Every day, public radio stations across the country broadcast episodes of BirdNote.


A little owl may be seen peering out of a hole in a sycamore tree as dusk falls along a dry streambed in West Texas. The smallest species of owl in the world, an elf owl, is what it is.

The Elf Owl is smaller than six inches tall, has gray feathers, and has large, golden eyes. It weighs around an ounce and a half less than a golf ball.

And the predator is a determined one. The Elf Owl hunts beetles, crickets, and spiders, as well as the occasional lizard or mouse, by flying out of its tree hollow at dusk. Larger prey, like scorpions, may end up cached in the nest for later consumption after the stingers are carefully removed.

Southwest Texas, southern Arizona, and New Mexico are home to elf owls, which are found in forests and cactus-covered deserts there. They frequently build their nests in large saguaro cactus woodpecker holes in desert environments. By October, they have left the US for Mexico’s warmer latitudes, where wintertime insects are more plentiful. However, spring arrives early in the American Southwest, and by late February or early March, the little owls are back and eager to start their nesting season.



The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds in Ithaca, New York, has given bird sounds. Geoffrey A. Keller recorded 105533; Bob McGuire recorded 188270.

Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler wrote and performed the song that serves as BirdNote’s theme.

Who keeps an owl in a cactus?

Pygmy owls typically measure 6.5 inches in length and weigh just 2.5 ounces. The bird’s back feathers have a creamy brown tint, while the underside is cream with reddish-brown striations. Two black eye-spots are outlined in white on the back of its skull, and the top of its head has a faint stripe to it. The eyes of pygmy owls are golden and rounded. They don’t have tufts on their ears, and their tails are longer than those of most owls.

HABITAT: The pygmy owl inhabits natural Sonoran Desert habitats at elevations lower than 4,000 feet, including desert rivers, washes, and wetlands. For nesting and roosting, it favors trees, tall cactus, and thickets of desert scrub. It frequently inhabits areas with acacia, ironwood, mesquite, saguaro, and organ pipe cacti. It is protected from larger birds of prey by this flora, which also offers ideal shelter for its preferred prey.

DISTRIBUTION: Cactus ferruginous pygmy owls can be found in northwest Mexico and southern Arizona’s desert regions. Most people reside in the ironwood forests to the northwest of Marana and Tucson.

LIFE CYCLE: These owls start building their nests in the late winter or early spring, usually in holes dug by woodpeckers, in the hollow of trees or cacti like the saguaro and organ pipe. In late April, they deposit three to five white eggs, which take around 28 days to hatch. Both parents feed the baby owls. About 27 to 30 days after hatching, chicks leave the nest, although they remain near to their parents until they are ready to be independent.

FEEDING: The pygmy owl hunts throughout the daytime and is a vicious predator of birds, small rodents, lizards, insects, frogs, and earthworms.

Threats to the owl include logging, woodcutting, cattle overgrazing, urban sprawl, agriculture, and habitat degradation.

POPULATION TREND: The pygmy owl was once widely distributed throughout Arizona, from the New River to the Mexican border, north of Phoenix. Currently, it is only accessible between Tucson and southern locations. In Arizona, fewer than 30 pygmy owls have been seen in recent years, and no year since 1993 has seen more than 41 of these birds. Only one owl was discovered in northwest Tucson in 2006. Even though there are more birds in Sonora, the number of pygmy owls in the region’s north has decreased by 26% since 2000. Few habitats are protected in Mexico, and literally millions of acres that once supported pygmy owl populations have been turned into monocultures of African buffelgrass to sustain cattle grazing. Both Sonora and Arizona are in risk of losing their pygmy owl populations.

What makes elf owls inhabit cacti?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Birds of North America Online both provided the maps.


Who is the tiniest of them all in the mirror, mirror on the wall? That’s right, the Elf Owl!

Only fourteen centimeters tall, or roughly the size of a Coke can, is this small owl. Micrathene, its scientific name, literally translates to “the little owl” in Greek.

Where can you locate this tiny owl, then? Elf Owls live in desert regions where they are at ease with scorpions, sand, and Saguaro cacti. In fact, after carefully removing the stingers, of course, this resilient little creature will eat scorpions!

Elf Owls nearly exclusively eat arthropods, such as scorpions, moths, crickets, beetles, and spiders, due to their size. Even though water in the desert can be scarce, the Elf Owl has little trouble finding it. All of the water they require is provided by the prey they consume.

Despite their appearance, these little fellows are highly sensitive to changes in their environment. Elf Owls build their nests in canyons with trees and cacti in the desert. They rely on raptors like flickers and gila woodpeckers to make the holes they utilize for their nests. Of course, they depend on the insects found in the desert for nourishment.

The number of elf owls in the United States has severely decreased as desert areas have been turned into sites for cultivation and habitation. The desert is a delicate, intricate ecosystem with a pulsing web of interrelated creatures, despite the misconception that it is lifeless. One of the many unusual animals that live in the desert is the elf owl.

Do Laughing Owls still exist?

The laughing owl, or Sceloglaux albifacies, was a species of extinct bird native to New Zealand that belonged to the Strigidae family (order Strigiformes). In the early 1900s, it was last observed. Laughing owls built their nests on the ground, where cats, rats, goats, and weasels preyed upon them.

What owl is the rarest?

With a staggering 6 foot (2 meter) wingspan, the Blakiston fish owl (Bubo Blakistoni) is the largest and one of the rarest owl species in the world. The Amur tigers, Amur leopards, Asiatic black bears, and wild boars are just a few of the spectacular and endangered species that coexist in the huge owl’s native northeast Asia environment. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has recently conducted research in Oryx and found that these owls rely on old, vulnerable trees for breeding and foraging places.

When examining 20,213 square kilometers of forest in Primorye, Russia, a research team led by Jonathan Slaght from the WCS and the University of Minnesota discovered that owl nesting places are typically found inside of ancient, huge trees such Japanese poplars, chosenia, and cork bark elms. All of the nesting locations are along streams, which are also the habitat for salmon, the principal food source for owls. This indicates that riparian forests, which are the banks of a water source or the area where water and land meet, are the only source of food for Blakiston’s fish owl.