Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Northern Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium californicum)


French: Chevêchette des Rocheuses German: Kalifornienzwergkauz Spanish: Mochuelo californiano

Glaucidium californicum

P. L. Sclater

, 1857,

Calaveras County, California, USA


Sometimes considered part of a species-group centred on G. passerinum (which see). Formerly treated as a race of G. gnoma; split on basis mainly of vocalizations, DNA and ecology. Racial differences rather slight, based primarily on morphology; grinnelli sometimes synonymized with nominate#R, and pinicola perhaps not valid. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • G. c. grinnelli Ridgway, 1914 – SE Alaska S through coastal British Columbia to coastal W USA (Washington, Oregon, California).
  • G. c. swarthi Grinnell, 1913 – Vancouver I (extreme SW Canada).
  • G. c. californicum P. L. Sclater, 1857 – C British Columbia and Alberta to W USA (S to Nevada and SE California) and NW Mexico (N Sonora, NW Chihuahua).
  • G. c. pinicola Nelson, 1910 – W USA (Idaho and Montana S to Arizona and New Mexico, E to Colorado).
  • Descriptive notes

    17–19 cm; male 54–80 g, female 64–87 g (californicum). Smallish pygmy-owl, plump with round head, short wings and long tail; fairly... read more


    Usually a series of single and evenly spaced “toot” notes c. 2 seconds apart, often... read more


    Coniferous and deciduous forest and forest edge; in Sierra Nevada of California, extends from blue... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small to medium-sized birds, mammals and large insects; to lesser extent, amphibians and reptiles. Mammals include mice (Microtus... read more


    Season Apr–Aug. Apparent seasonal monogamy; no reports of polygyny. Nest in cavity, usually unlined, though nest cavity in Canada was... read more


    Mostly resident; long-distance movements unknown. Suspected to be an elevational migrant in Rocky... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Non-significant decline in California; non-significant increase in Oregon; significant decline in interior Rocky Mts (... 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). Northern Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium californicum). 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 14 December 2019).