An Owl with eyes in the back of its head

Northern Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl

One of the more diminutive members of the Owl family is the Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnona) which is 6”-61/2” (15-17 cm) in size. These pictures were taken on January 8th, 2009 the second picture shows that it has “Eyes in the back of its head”, this must be very confusing to both predator and prey. Scientists believe that this evolutionary adaptation is meant to keep smaller birds which are its prey from “mobbing” (attacking or harassing). 

Black nape spots "Eyes"The Northern Pygmy Owl is closely related to the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl whose range is the Southwestern United States. Both the Northern and Ferruginous are diurnal (opposed to most owls which are nocturnal) and is active from dawn to dusk. The ability to have better vision at night is a function of the numbers of rods and cones present in the eye. Cones are adapted to distinguish color and rods are adapted for low light. Owls have many more rods in the retina of their eye than do humans, some owls species eyes are  approximately 100 times more sensitive at night than those of humans;  hence giving them extremely good night vision.

In the South Okanagan the Northern Pygmy Owl makes his home at the higher elevations between 700 and 1500 meters during the breeding season. During the winter the months of December and January he is regularly seen on the valley floor where the snowfall is less and prey more abundant.

To learn more about this bird contact Great Horned Owl Eco Tours

About Greg Byron

Greg Byron, orginally from Montreal, now resides in the South Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada’s only desert. He operates an Ecotourism business, Great Horned Owl Eco Tours, and focusses on bird watching and nature adventure tours. In order to deliver unique and experiential tours greg has have become very driven to understand all of the plants and animals which reside in the Okanagan along with Natural History, geology and issues surrounding water sustainability and climate change. Another gem about the Okanagan that isn’t too well known is bird watching; with over 300 species the Okanagan is one of the premiere bird watching areas in all of Canada. As an avid birdwatcher, when guests go on his bird watching tour one of his goals is to find for them a “Life Bird”. In Greg’s backyard can be found 10% of Canada’s endangered species including: Williamson’s Sapsuckers, Lark Sparrows, White Headed Woodpeckers, Yellow Breasted Chats and Western Screech Owls. Check out my photostream on Flickr

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2 Responses to An Owl with eyes in the back of its head

  1. Greg Byron says:

    I was very fortunate to have this tiny raptor hang around my yard for a couple of weeks, During that time I came to realize what an incredible and aggressive hunter he is as picked off small birds like Juncos. Ounce for Ounce he is perhaps the most fearsome of the owl family.