Cute as a button, as big as a person’s palm, and the weight of a golf ball, elf owls are extremely adorable and fascinating creatures. These small owls are in fact the smallest species of owl in the whole world.
Is your little one intrigued by these small greyish-brown owls which are no bigger than the size of a sparrow? Do their eyes widen with surprise when you tell them that these birds have thin white eyebrows and pale-yellow eyes?
If that is the case and your kid wants to know more about these owls, we got you covered with this article on some amazing elf owl facts for kids. Let’s dive right in.
11 Most Interesting & Fun Facts about Elf Owls for Kids
Elf owls may be the smallest owls out there, but don’t think they cannot surprise you with their cute little habits and songs. Yes, you read that right! These owls indeed use songs for courtship and are intelligent enough to put up an act in a losing fight. Are you surprised? Want to know some more mind-blowing elf owl facts? Then keep reading.
1. Elf owls are extremely small in size
The elf owls are the smallest species of owl in the whole world. An adult elf owl can grow up to 6 inches with a wingspan that is 9 inches long.
Additionally, they are extremely lightweight weighing almost as much as a golf ball. The female elf owls tend to be slightly larger than the males.
2. Elf owls always recycle woodpeckers’ nests
When it comes to these birds’ nesting habits, elf owls have a special place for abandoned woodpeckers’ holes especially in oak trees or saguaro cactus.
They prefer nests that are at least 20 to 30 feet off the ground so that predators like bobcats and snakes cannot reach them.
3. Elf owls are extremely skilled hunters and gatherers
Like most other owls, elf owls too, have excellent vision and hearing. They are active during the night and can patiently wait to grab their intended prey.
Additionally, in case they hunt more food than they need, they will store it in their nests for later consumption. An extremely fun fact about these owls is that in case they capture a scorpion, they will remove its stinger before they feed it to their babies.
To learn about some other species of owls, check out our articles:
4. They attract mates with nests and songs
When it comes to the mating of an elf owl, it is a rather interesting sight to behold. Males will sing loudly from their holes in order to lure their would-be partners until they follow him inside.
Additionally, they will have a special song preserved for mating purposes and also will entice a female by giving them food.
5. Elf owls have one partner throughout their lives
It is not surprising that elf owls are monogamous when it comes to their relationships especially after their courtship ritual of food and songs. The female lays up to 5 eggs which she incubates while the male brings food.
After about a month of the eggs hatching, the parents would often refrain from bringing food so that they could encourage the owlets to bring their own food.
6. Elf owls are extremely intelligent
Elf owls being the small creatures that they are, needed to come up with tactics to survive in a fight. When they sense danger, they make loud barking sounds, clap their bills, and quickly move their tails back and forth. If cornered, the elf owls are smart enough to put on an act and play dead!
7. They love to eat insects
A huge chunk of the elf owl’s diet consists of insects. They are agile hunters of moths, beetles, crickets, caterpillars, and larvae. Sometimes, they also prey on scorpions, spiders, and small snakes.
Their diet is quite flexible. For example, during the dry season, they will feed on moths and crickets, during monsoon they hunt for beetles because they are abandoned at that point in time and can easily survive on the water that they get from their prey.
8. Elf owls migrate occasionally
Elf owls are not as keen on migration as snowy white owls are. However, since they rely on insects as their primary food, during cooler months they have to travel a bit to warmer areas to find abundant food.
They will occasionally migrate in flocks and can travel from the United States of America to the Mexican border.
In case you want to know more about the snowy white owls, you can check out our article: 11 Amazing Snowy White Owl Facts for Kids
9. The Call of the elf owls is extremely adorable
We already know that elf owls use songs as a part of their courtship. The hoot of an adult elf owl sounds very similar to the sounds made by puppies. During the nesting season, both males and females communicate with each other and the babies with a soft whistling sound.
The males have distinct songs for flight while the females make special sounds when they are being fed by a mate.
10. They are mainly found in areas that are close to water sources
It is not a surprise that elf owls prefer nesting close to water sources considering the fact that they spend most of their time in desert-like areas. Although they can survive on water from their prey, if there is a water source nearby, these tiny owls will prefer nesting somewhere close by.
11. The population of elf owls is unfortunately decreasing
While they are not considered to be endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the elf owl population has unfortunately declined due to habitat loss. It is only in the state of California that they are considered to be endangered.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The elf owls are usually very small in size and weigh as much as a golf ball. Hence, they are called elf owls. They are the smallest species of owl in the world.
An average elf owl is usually 12 to 14cm in size and can weigh around 41 grams.
Elf owls are intelligent birds who can “play dead” to avoid predators.
The scientific name for elf owl is Micrathene whitneyi.
Yes, the diet of elf owls mainly consists of insects and other invertebrates and hence they are carnivorous in nature.
Baby elf owls are dependent on their parents for food and hence eat whatever they hunt which usually are insects.
There isn’t any specific information as to whether elf owls eat ants or not. However, they do eat small insects like moths, flies, locusts, caterpillars, and many more.
Yes, elf owls are the smallest species of owl in the world.
Elf owls recycle abandoned woodpecker holes and live there preferably in places that are close to water sources.
Often, elf owls depend on desert cacti and trees in wooden canyons for the purposes of nesting. And hence, they prefer living in areas with cacti.
Although the population of elf owls is decreasing, these birds of prey are yet to be considered endangered by the IUCN. However, in California, they have been listed as endangered.
About a total of 150,000 elf owls are left.
In the United States of America, one is not allowed to keep elf owls as pets. They can only be possessed by licensed individuals with training.
Elf owls have very small, dry, and loosely compacted pellets.
That was it, folks! You have managed to reach the end of the article “11 Amazing Elf Owl Facts for Kids”. Hopefully, your little one enjoyed learning about the world’s smallest owl and you too had a great time reading this article. Remember, do not try to make elf owls your pets as they thrive in the wild.