Scientific Name:

Glaucidium mooreorum

Population Status:

Critically Endangered

Body Length:





1.7 oz (51g)

What makes a raptor a raptor?

Did you know?

  • The Pernambuco Pygmy Owl was first described as late as 2002, when scientists studied museum specimens that had been captured in the 1980's!

Though The Peregrine Fund is not working directly with Pernambuco Pygmy Owls, our conservation efforts through habitat protection, education, and community outreach extend to all raptor species, including this tiny owl. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation.

The Pernambuco Pygmy Owl is, perhaps, one of the rarest owls in the world. Its only known range is in the northeastern state of Brazil known as Pernambuco. As you can imagine, very little is known about this small owl, its biology, or its habitat requirements.

The species was first described by biologists when it was seen in the Reserva Biológica de Saltinho in Pernambuco, Brazil. This reserve encompasses around 562 hectares (1,390 acres) of Atlantic Forest Biome. Based on where it was found, this species appears to prefer tall, humid, lowland forests.

The Pernambuco Pygmy Owl is similar to other Neotropical pygmy owls, with some differences of course! Overall, this owl is lighter than its other Neotropical relatives. It also has a slightly longer tail and a shorter wing chord.

The crown of its head is grey and reddish brown. Its head, face, neck, and tail are dusted with white spots - giving it the appearance of having just come in out of the snow! It has a creamy-white collar and underparts, which are streaked rusty red. Its back is reddish brown.

The Pernambuco Pygmy Owl has a distinctive call which also separates it from other Neotropical pygmy owls. Its call consists of 5-7 notes, but more often it contains just 6 short notes.

Biologists have searched for this species in other parts of Brazil, however, they have only been able to locate the Pernambuco Pygmy Owl within a very small range of forest. The population is estimated to number only 50 adult birds and, to make matters worse, those numbers are probably declining! Most likely, this is due to human actions - such as deforestation and habitat fragmentation as a result of logging, burning and clearing for agricultural fields and urban centers. If that weren't problem enough, poaching within the small patches of forest that remain in this reserve also occurs - threatening this little owl and many of the other unique species that make this reserve their home.

There is actually fear that this beautiful, tiny owl may even be extinct because it hasn't been found since the early 2000's! If the Pernambuco Pygmy Owl is ever found again, it will be very important for biologists to learn as much as they can in order to help save it.

Very little is known about the diet of the Pernambuco Pygmy Owl. One was observed feeding on a cicada... and that is about all the information we have. If we presume that its diet is similar to that of other pygmy owls, it probably also eats other insects, small mammals - such as mice and voles, and maybe even songbirds.

Believe it or not, no one has ever documented a Pernambuco Pygmy Owl's nest! For all we know, no one has ever even seen one. No one knows where it places its nest, though it probably places it in tree cavities like other pygmy owls. We don't know how many eggs they lay, how long the young stay with the adults, or anything else for that matter. This small owl, and its breeding habits, remain a complete mystery. Our only hope is that one day someone will re-discover this species. This will give us an opportunity to learn more about it and to protect the remaining population.

The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about birds of prey. Interactive activities, tours, interesting videos and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets to quizzes to costumes await the curious visitor. Owls are included among the ambassador birds at the visitor center, providing visitors with a wonderful opportunity to see owls up close and learn about the wonderful and interesting adaptations they have in order to survive in their respective habitats. There is also a touch table with owl feathers and other natural objects available for exploration.

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