[Tweeters] NORTHERN PYGMY OWL With Prey

johntubbs at comcast.net johntubbs at comcast.net
Thu Sep 25 17:34:21 PDT 2008

Hi Everyone,

I really didn't expect to see my very unexpected yard bird visitor again, and was ecstatic at having gotten a couple of decent images. Well, this afternoon I arrived home and when I glanced out the window, here was the owl making a meal of a sparrow (starting with the head, something I've seen to be true with other raptors - Osprey and accipiters, at least - as well). The camera was still set up from the other day and so I began snapping images through the window, lest I scare the bird away. It then flew - carrying the sparrow, which obviously isn't too much smaller or lighter than the owl itself - about 30 feet into another tree that could only be seen from outside. So, I went outside as quietly as possible and grabbed a few other images of the bird before it decided to fly off to our neighbor's yard with its prize. A link to one of the images is at http://www.tubbsphoto.com/-/tubbsphoto/detail.asp?photoID=7036815&cat=38981.

What's so striking about this situation is how truly tiny the owl is. Talk about a fearsome predator per ounce...! With the angle I first had of the captured bird, I thought one of the immature White-crowned Sparrows that we have in abundance in the yard had been the unfortunate prey, based on the unmarked belly, leg color, etc. But when the owl moved to the other tree, it became apparent that the prey was a House Sparrow - note the white wing bar, rufous colored coverts, and the lack of any white edging on the coverts. So...it even picked the optimum prey species! (House Sparrow is actually the least common sparrow we have in the yard, so it would be interesting to know if that species is less sophisticated in avoiding predators like the Pygmy Owl, or if it was just pure random chance that resulted in this bird getting caught despite its statistically lower probability of capture. Or, was it captured elsewhere and brought to our yard to consume? No way to know, of co!

John Tubbs
Snoqualmie, WA
johntubbs at comcast.net

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