Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Ferruginous Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum)


French: Chevêchette brune German: Brasilzwergkauz Spanish: Mochuelo caburé

Strix brasiliana

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

Ceará, Brazil


Thought to be closest to G. tucumanum, G. peruanum and G. nana. Has been considered to include those as races, but recent studies have shown all to be vocally distinct and to differ in DNA. In the past treated as conspecific with G. jardinii, but again differs in vocalizations and DNA. N populations (cactorum, intermedium, ridgwayi) recently proposed as forming a separate species (G. ridgwayi); treatment as such#R#R based on “DNA evidence and vocalisations”, but account of song reports it as “similar… but… slower” at 2.5–3 vs 3 notes per second, suggesting that distinction very slight. Birds from S Mexico (Chiapas) and Guatemala sometimes separated as race saturatum. Race ucayalae also suggested as possibly a separate species, differing genetically and vocally#R; more study required. Form intermedium often synonymized with cactorum, but probably worthy of recognition#R. Race pallens perhaps better placed in G. tucumanum; placement of medianum, phaloenoides and duidae with present species has also been questioned#R#R. Twelve subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • G. b. cactorum van Rossem, 1937 – S USA (S Arizona) and W Mexico (S to N Nayarit).
  • G. b. intermedium A. R. Phillips, 1966 – W Mexico from S Nayarit to S Oaxaca.
  • G. b. ridgwayi Sharpe, 1875 – Ridgway's Pygmy-owl – S USA (S Texas) through E & S Mexico to Panama.
  • G. b. medianum Todd, 1916 – N Colombia.
  • G. b. margaritae Phelps, Sr & Phelps, Jr., 1951 – Margarita I (N Venezuela).
  • G. b. phaloenoides (Daudin, 1800) – N & E Venezuela, Trinidad and the Guianas.
  • G. b. duidae Chapman, 1929 – S Venezuela (Mt Duida).
  • G. b. olivaceum Chapman, 1939 – SE Venezuela.
  • G. b. ucayalae Chapman, 1929 – Amazonian Colombia, S Venezuela and Brazil S to S Peru and N Bolivia.
  • G. b. brasilianum (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Ferruginous Pygmy-owl – NE Brazil S to NE Argentina and N Uruguay.
  • G. b. pallens Brodkorb, 1938 – E Bolivia, W Paraguay and N Argentina.
  • G. b. stranecki C. König & Wink, 1995 – C Argentina to S Uruguay.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–19 cm; male 46–86 g, female 62–106 g (ridgwayi); wingspan c. 38 cm. Long, narrow tail and distinctive whistled “popping” call. Very... read more


    Advertising call a prolonged series of 10–60 whistled notes, c. 3 per second, sounding like... read more


    Tropical lowlands and foothills in primary and secondary forest, coastal and thorn scrub, bushes... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly insects; also reptiles, birds, mammals and amphibians; diet varies among seasons and habitat types. Examples of prey items include... read more


    Lays generally c. Mar–Jun, during dry to early wet season; eggs found in S Mexico (Oaxaca) in Apr–May; breeding late Jan and... read more


    Resident, at least in N of range; no evidence of movements elsewhere.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. In USA, has declined drastically during 20th century; in Texas (lower Rio Grande valley), once generally distributed in... 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., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Ferruginous Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum). 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 on 16 November 2019).