Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi)


Taxonomy

French: Chevêchette des saguaros German: Elfenkauz Spanish: Mochuelo de los saguaros
Taxonomy:

Athene whitneyi

J. G. Cooper

, 1861,

Fort Mojave, Arizona, USA

.

Relationships unclear. Races whitneyi and sanfordi appear to intergrade in NW Mexico and S Arizona. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. w. whitneyi (J. G. Cooper, 1861) – breeds SW USA (extreme S Nevada, SE California, C Arizona, SW New Mexico and SW Texas) S to NW & NC Mexico (Sonora, NE Chihuahua, N Coahuila); in winter to W & SC Mexico#R.
  • M. w. idonea (Ridgway, 1914) – SC USA (S Texas) to NE & C Mexico (N Nuevo León, N Tamaulipas; Puebla, W Oaxaca); northern populations migrate S in winter.
  • M. w. sanfordi (Ridgway, 1914) – S Baja California (NW Mexico).
  • M. w. graysoni Ridgway, 1886 – Socorro I, off W Mexico (possibly extinct).
  • Descriptive notes

    13–14 cm; male 36–44 g, female 41–48 g. World’s smallest owl. Face and throat cinnamon to cinnamon-buff, supercilia white with narrow black tips;... read more

    Voice

    High-pitched calls consist of 5–15 or more notes, reminiscent of yelping puppy; may... read more

    Habitat

    Cactus desert, riparian woodland, dry oak woodland, wooded canyons, mesquite (Prosopis);... read more

    Food and feeding

    Almost entirely arthropods, primarily insects and spiders, although young kangaroo rats (Dipodomys) and a small snake also have... read more

    Breeding

    Season May–Jun in USA, Mar–Aug in Mexico. Pair formation thought to begin as soon as female arrives at breeding territory;... read more

    Movements

    N populations migratory, leave by mid-Oct, winter in N & C Mexico in areas with abundance of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. In Mexico, fairly common to common, but local; no indication of numbers. Almost extirpated in California, where classed as... read more

    Recommended citation

    Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/55090 on 24 June 2019).