SE Colorado Birding

Birding and discussion: A conservation-oriented birding blog that emphasizes low-impact birding and sustainable birding practices together with the enjoyment of birds. Southeast Colorado offers a diversity of habitats which provide premiere birding opportunities. Save Sabal Palm

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Courting by Northern Pygmy-Owl pair

On my way home from a conservation meeting on the west slope in Glenwood Springs, I stayed over to do some owling in Chaffee County. I drove up into some good habitat at dusk last night. Though I had not been in this area before, it had not only a diversity of conifers but nice stands of aspen trees and a small stream so I considered it worth a try. As I didn't hear any owls calling, I whistled my N. Saw-whet-like tooting.

Soon I heard a melodic singing nearby. Though I didn't recognize the singing, I walked in that direction looking for small owls and I spotted the Northern Pygmy-Owl sitting on a branch of a large aspen shown in the first pic. She emitted some soft one-syllable calls and soon a second owl joined her as shown in the second pic.

The two little owls gave soft calls (anthropomorphically, they sounded like "sweet nothings" or songs of endearment) occasionally. Soon the second owl hopped a little closer and wiggled it's body around.

Then the second owl hopped right next to the first owl and commenced to engage in allopreening (mutual preening) with the first owl. Of course I had no idea that they were allopreening--actually it looked like they were kissing (as all I could see is one would lean over and put it's face on the other owl and moved it's head around) so I was back in my confused state. They both preened the other though the second owl, the one that started it, did more preening of the first owl. After 2-3 minutes of allopreening the second owl flew off to a nearby conifer and disappeared into the branches. The first owl remained on the same branch for another 5+ minutes, preening itself for a minute or so, then it flew off. I looked around but could refind either owl.
When I got to my motel room I checked Birds of North America (BNA) online where I read that they had a report of a male and female N. Pygmy-Owl pair allopreening after copulation and that allopreening is reported for Eurasian Pygmy-Owl.. Just to be sure this is what I had seen, I googled N. Pygmy-Owl and allopreening--to my surprise I found a video on AOL of a pair of N. Pygmy Owls engaged in allopreening. Though the video is distant, I confirmed that this is what I saw my two owls doing. You can see this at

More about these owl later. SeEtta


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