A Little Bird ...
By Maggie Pingolt
When it comes to cute, cactus pygmy owls just might rule the roost. Sadly, the tiny birds were once on the brink of extinction, due in large part to invasive plant species like buffelgrass and urban sprawl. Areas once rife with families of cactus pygmy owls are now completely devoid.
Although the miniature owls are difficult to find (only 28 were spotted in Arizona in 2006), their home range includes areas in and around Central and Southern Arizona. The owls tend to hide in the hollowed-out cavities of trees or saguaros — hence their name. When they're not tucked away for the day, the primarily nocturnal birds feed on insects, lizards, frogs and other small birds.
Despite their dwindling numbers, the cactus pygmy owl was removed from the Endangered Species List in 1997. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the delisting stemmed from a data error. Last October, following another petition to list the bird and its habitat as threatened or endangered, the agency ruled that the protective designation wasn't warranted.