Readers’ wildlife photos

July 10, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today marks the return of photos from reader Ivar Husa, who sends us lovely birds. He lives in Washington State but the photos are from the southwestern U.S.  Ivar’s narrative is indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

The birds in this collection have very limited ranges in North American, for the most part to the mountainous areas along our southern border. Finding them is a special treat for birders visiting southeast Arizona. These were all photographed in the Santa Rita Mountains, south of Tucson, Arizona.

Elf Owls (Micrathene whitneyi), seen here, are the world’s smallest raptor. Males and females maintain separate nests nearby to one another. The male brings food to the female’s nest each night during nesting season, arriving around sunset with their first offering.  The land owner has habituated these birds to the light of a small flashlight, enabling photography. The property owner has been showing off this nest and these birds, ‘guiding’ as it were, for no charge, for the last 11 years.

This male, and they believe no other, has served this nest for 11 years. This, based on behavior rather than appearance. Cornell’s All About Birds website reports (perhaps incorrectly?) that the oldest known wild Elf Owl lived to at least 5 years, 10 months old.

A female died in her nest 7 years ago (evidenced by the presence of many wasps eating the carrion). The following year a new female was brought to this nest, apparently unfazed by its history. These owls are unable to create their own nesting cavities, so one can’t be too picky!  This continuing female occupant seems also to be longer lived than expected. 

JAC: I took a paragraph from Wikipedia to show you how small these cavity-nesting birds are (they often occupy abandoned woodpecker nests):

The elf owl is the world’s lightest owl, although the long-whiskered owlet and the Tamaulipas pygmy owl are of a similarly diminutive length.  It is also the world’s smallest owl.  The mean body weight of this species is 40 g (1.4 oz). These tiny owls are 12.5 to 14.5 cm (4.9 to 5.7 in) long and have a wingspan of about 27 cm (10.5 in). Their primary projection (flight feather) extends nearly past their tail. They have fairly long legs and often appear bow-legged.

Back to Ivar:

Eggs were expected to hatch a week or so after my visit, which was June 2, 2023:

This male Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans) is also bringing food to its nest:

Bronzed cowbird (Molothrus aeneus):

Brown-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus):

Dusky-capped flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer):

Rufous-capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons):

Berylline Hummingbird, Saucerottia beryllina (Background colors desaturated):

Broad-billed Hummingbird, Cynanthus latirostris:

7 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. What a unique and wonderful bird fauna! I’m going to that region next month; thank you for whetting my appetite 🙂

  2. Wow! These are great. A region I definitely need to visit. I study Northern Saw-whet Owls, and it boggles my mind that these Elf Owls are less than half the mass on average.

  3. Humble brag, but all but the Trogon and the Broad-billed Hummingbird were ‘Lifers’ for me on my June visit to AZ. The Trogon I’d seen for the first time in 2022. My previous visit to Tucson resulted in no Lifers to report. Actually, it has been rather a lot of years that I’d found as many 6 Lifers, even over a year. (Dad Joke Alert) “Chickens one day, feathers the next.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *