Elf Owl

Micrathene whitneyi
Range Map

Authorities list this sparrow sized as “endangered” in California. They are the smallest owls in the world. Researchers believe that the Lower Colorado River is the limit of their range in California.

There are three breeding populations of Elf Owl breeding along the border zone of Mexico and the southwestern USA, and fourth group in south Baja California (Mexico).

  • M. w. whitneyi has the largest breeding range. They live in the American Southwest and northwest Mexico.
  • M. w. idonea breeds in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas and northern Mexico.
  • M. w. sanfordi is a nonmigratory group that live in south Baja California.
  • M. w. graysoni lives on Isla Socorro in the Revillagigedo Archipelago 300 miles SSW form the southern tip of Baja California.

Because of the isolated nature of M. w. graysoni, some scientists believe we should recognise it as a separate species. When I visited Isla Socorro in 2017, I didn’t see this owl, but because of its nocturnal nature, and the limited time we had on the island, it is no surprise.

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