The Owl Pages

Least Pygmy Owl ~ Glaucidium minutissimum


The Least Pygmy Owl is a tiny owl with a rounded head and no ear tufts. It is also known as the East Brazilian Pygmy Owl. It has been proposed that this owl should be renamed Sick's Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium sicki).

Photo Gallery (3 pictures)

  • Least Pygmy Owl
  • Least Pygmy Owl
  • Least Pygmy Owl

Sound Gallery

Typical call - Carlos Botelho State Park, Brazil. April 2005. © Antonio Silveira.


Description: The facial disc is pale greyish-brown with some indistinct rufous concentric lines. Eyebrows are whitish, while the eyes are yellow. The cere is yellowish-grey and the bill yellowish-horn with a slight greenish tint. The crown and upperparts are dusky cinnamon-brown to warm brown, with the crown having tiny whitish flecks and the nape with prominent fake eye-spots (occipital face). The mantle and back are plain warm brown, and the wing-coverts have some pale speckles.
Flight feathers are dark brown, with whitish spots on each web, forming pale bars across the opened wing. The wing near the wrist is whitish below. The tail is dark brown with 3-4 visible broken bars of relatively large, whitish spots.
There is a rounded whitish area around the throat, bordered above by a narrow rufous band, and on the sides by rufous-brown mottling forming patches with a few pale spots. The rest of the underparts are off-white with buffish-rufous streaking on the flanks.The tarsi are feathered, and the toes are bristled and yellowish. Claws are horn with darker tips.

Size: Length 14-15cm. Wing length 85-91mm. Tail length 49-54mm. Weight around 50g. Females are heavier than males.

Habits: The Least Pygmy Owl is partly diurnal, but most active at dusk and dawn.

Voice: The song of the male is a high, hollow double note, somewhat drawn out and repeated at intervals of several seconds - hew-hew, hew-hew, hew-hew...

Hunting & Food: Feeds mainly on insects, but also takes small vertebrates.

Breeding: The breeding habits of the Least Pygmy Owl are little known. Likely nests in abandoned holes of woodpeckers in tree trunks and larger branches.

Habitat: Evergreen rainforest and forest edge with a preference for primary forest, in tropical and subtropical climates. Ranges from sea-level up to 800m elevation in southeast Brazil, reportedly up to 1000m in other areas.

Distribution: East Brazil from southeast Bahia south to Santa Catarina, east to Minas Gerais, south Mato Grosso, Paraná and adjacent eastern Paraguay, and perhaps northeast Argentina.

Range of Least Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium minutissimum)
Range of the Least Pygmy Owl Glaucidium minutissimum

Status: Uncertain, found to be locally not rare in region between Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina. Probably threatened by deforestation.

Original Description: Wied-Neuwied, Prinzen zu Maximilian. 1830. Beiträge zur Naturgeschichte von Brasilien, 3, p. 242.

del Hoyo, Elliott & Sargatal. 1999. "Handbook of the Birds of the World: Barn Owls to Hummingbirds". Buteo Books.
König, Claus & Weick, Friedhelm. 2008. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World (Second Edition)". Yale University Press.
König, Weick and Becking. 1999. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World". Yale University Press.
Mikkola, Heimo. 2012. "Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide". Bloomsbury.

See also: Other owls from South America, Genus: Glaucidium.

Page by Deane Lewis. Last updated 2016-01-11.