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ELF OWL } Micrathene whitneyi

RANGE: Southwestern United States, Mexico

STATUS: Common globally; elf owls are Possibly Extirpated from Nevada and Critically Endangered in California

THREATS: In southeastern California, reduction of mature riparian forest habitat needed for nesting

The elf owl is the smallest owl in North America — at five inches high, it could fit in the palm of your hand. Elf owls live in deserts with saguaro cacti, thorn scrub, and mesquite, or in streamside woodlands. They depend on cavities excavated by woodpeckers for their nest sites. These nocturnal owls like to visit agaves and ocotillos to dine on sleeping moths and other insects; they’re fantastic flyers, and capture most of their prey in flight. They will also eat scorpions and are adept at removing the stingers.

Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department