Elf Owl

Range Map
Micrathene whitneyi

Authorities list this sparrow sized owl 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 a 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 lives in south Baja California.
  • M. w. graysoni lives on Isla Socorro in the Revillagigedo Archipelago 300 miles SSW from the southern tip of Baja California, and 600 miles from the Mexican mainland.

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, it was no surprise I didn’t see this owl, because of its nocturnal nature, and the limited time we had on the island.



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