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Barred Owl – Strix varia
Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl is unique in its cloud forest habitat with differences in male female plumages and a very small size. Scarce in its overall habitat, it seems to be found in pockets where it is regularly reported. Few studies have been made and considering the dangers of the area, future studies may be limited. Very little is known about
This small round-headed, yellow eyed owl may be typical in general pygmy-owl appearance but is very unique in that the male and female have different colors (dimorphic). The female’s head and upperparts have a reddish or rufous wash while the male’s crown, nape and upperparts are olive-brown. At 5.5-6 inches in length it is smaller than Northern, Mountain, Ridgeway’s (Ferruginous), Cape (Baja) and Guatemalan Pygmy-Owls. Only the Central-American and Colima Pygmy-Owls reach the small size of this pygmy-owl in Mexico. Reverse size dimorphism (females being larger than males) is very slight with this species.
The earless Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl has bold false eyes on its nape. Its backside is largely unmarked. The male has whitish spotting on its crown where the female’s markings are more cinnamon in color. Males have brown streaking on their chest against a white background where the female’s streaking is more rufous.
Habitat and Range
Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl is a mountain and cloud forest owl found at 2,900 to 6,900 feet in elevation. It inhabits humid evergreen and subtropical pine forests in the eastern Sierra Madre Oriental of NE Mexico.
The vocalizations of the Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl are different than the typical long rhythmic songs of most pygmy-owls. In comparison of near ranging pygmy-owls: Mountain Pygmy-Owl has long sets of evenly spaced double note call: toot-toot toot-toot toot-toot toot-toot… Northern Pygmy-Owl has single note series: toot toot toot toot toot… Colima Pygmy-Owl has short evenly spaced single toots given faster than Northern Pygmy-Owl. The Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl gives more drawn out toots in double and triple sets with a pause in-between: tooot-tooot pause tooot-tooot pause tooot-tooot… or tooot-tooot-tooot pause tooot-tooot-tooot pause tooot-tooot-tooot… It also has an excited quavering set of toots. See the vocalization sections of each owl to hear the calls.
Neither food nor hunting has been studied. It is assumed that this owl is similar to other Neo-tropical pygmy-owls mainly feeding on beetles and other larger insects like grasshoppers or crickets along with some small vertebrates like lizards. There are limited observations.
IUCN/Birdlife has this species listed as “Near Threatened” although Mexico has listed the species as “Endangered”. It would seem in this case the Mexican government may have a better understanding of what the species faces. In our many experience in Mexico, the system, people, government, and general concerns for wildlife, this species should be of real concern. As we study this species, the range is just too small, its habitat is limited and disappearing (logging), the population is unknown, studies are not being done, and US researchers having been pulled from the region. The long-term future for this species may very well be bleak at best.