Yellowstone Reports

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Christmas Owl

Pygmy Owl
by Dan Hartman

Dec. 24, 2021

     I looked out the window yesterday to see our flock of Pine Grosbeaks explode from the ground.  Then I spotted one by it's self off to my left.  I remember thinking "He's fluffed up".  I wondered if he may be sickly.  Then it took off flying awkwardly loosing feathers in the wind.
     Then it hit me.  A Pygmy owl has grabbed a grosbeak!  The little owl and prey landed in the snow a scant dozen yards from me, turning his head this way and that, glaring at the squawking jays that had witnessed the kill.
     Now this is not the first time we've observed a pygmy making a kill.  Heck one winter I saw him make 22 kills.  But those were the much smaller rosey finches.
     It's been 5 years since we've seen a pygmy capture a grosbeak.
     The little owl plucked at the female grosbeak for 15 minutes then made a series of short flights that took him to a low branch in an engleman spruce.  There he continued plucking then feeding.  It was now 10:30 in the morning.
     He contined feeding off an on for 2 hours when he appeared to have eaten his fill and carried it to a tree well a few feet away to stash it against the trunk.
     From there he flew about our yard, perching here and there, even appearing to hunt other songbirds.  The whole time he was being harrassed by jays, chick-a-dees and a hairy woodpecker.
     Finally, a little after 1PM he flew off.
     At 4PM the little owl was back.  He reclaimed the grosbeak carcass, carried it up to a low perch and once again began feeding.
    Sometime after 4:30, I realized he was gone.  I went down for a look.
     The grosbeak was gone also.

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