Rare Earthtones Logo
Spacer Spacer
Center for Biological Diversity Home

CACTUS FERRUGINOUS PYGMY OWL } Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum

RANGE: The desert habitat of southern Arizona and in northwestern Mexico, mostly in the ironwood forests northwest of Tucson and Marana

STATUS: Removed from federal Endangered list in 2006; petition submitted for renewed protection under the Endangered Species Act by the Center for Biological Diversity

THREATS: Habitat destruction from urban sprawl and agriculture threaten the owl, along with logging, woodcutting, and livestock overgrazing

The tiny, fierce pygmy owl has become synonymous with wild Sonoran Desert — a desert people can’t seem to leave alone. When urban sprawl scrapes away desert vegetation, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl is erased too. Its numbers have sharply declined in Sonora, and in Arizona they’re perilously low. The Center for Biological Diversity originally petitioned to protect the owl in 1992, and after three successful follow-up lawsuits, the tiny owl was federally designated as endangered in Arizona in 1997. The Center garnered 732,000 acres of critical habitat for the owl in 1999, resulting in a new era of land and wildlife conservation in southern Arizona. But developers fought back in 2001 with a lawsuit to end the pygmy owl’s endangered status, and the Bush administration easily acquiesced. The species’ protection was removed in 2006 based on faulty science. The Center has submitted a new petition to re-list the owl.


Photo © Robin Silver