Northern Pygmy-Owl in Atascadero

Kevin Zimmer

At about 3:30 this afternoon (July 18), I stepped outside of the house and was amazed hear a Northern Pygmy-Owl “tooting” steadily from the oaks lining Graves Creek on the eastern edge of our property.  After a cursory attempt to see if the owl was readily visible from the creek side of our house, I ran back inside to grab my binoculars and camera.  When I came back out, the owl was still calling away, and had attracted the attention of our resident Steller’s Jays, which were quickly mobilizing to mob the owl.  Unfortunately, the owl also seemingly managed to draw the attention of a Cooper’s Hawk which flew in and landed low in the riparian undergrowth very near to where the owl was calling.  The owl went silent, and the hawk sat there looking around before flying off – as best as I could tell, the hawk was not carrying anything when it flew off, and an inspection of the ground beneath where the hawk was perched revealed no feathers, so I think that the owl escaped.  But I never heard the owl again, although the jays still appeared to be mobbing something high in the oaks.  After a few more minutes, the jays calmed down and carried on with other activities.

We’ve lived in this spot for over 30 years, and I’ve never heard or seen a Northern Pygmy-Owl on the property, or even in the neighboring wooded foothills of the Santa Lucias which take off just across the street from our place.  I have seen nesting/territorial NOPOs at Cerro Alto Campground on multiple occasions over the years (including this year), so it’s not much of a stretch to have one show up on our well-wooded property.  I suspect this may have been a dispersing juvenile, just passing through after leaving its natal territory.

Kevin Zimmer

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