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Northern Pygmy Owl

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The Northern Pygmy Owl is currently known to occur through much of the Rocky Mountain, Foothill and southern Boreal Forest regions of Alberta. However, the Northern Pygmy Owl was first described in Alberta from a specimen taken near Calgary sometime prior to 1901. During the breeding season, the Northern Pygmy Owl was first recorded in the mountainous southwestern portion of the province, especially in the Rocky Mountain National Parks assemblage. The first recorded nesting of the species in the province was near Rocky Mountain House in 1971. 

The Northern Pygmy Owl usually occurs year-round within its Alberta range. However, eastern and southern movements during winter are well documented in the province, especially in years with high snowfall and extreme cold.

It is unclear whether a range change for the Northern Pygmy Owl is occurring in Alberta. It may be that fire protection is maintaining larger and older trees thereby causing an easterly range expansion. More likely, however, the seemingly wider provincial distribution of the pygmy owl in the province is simply an artifact of increased research presence in the boreal forest. Many of the more recent records are extralimital than previous ones, but it is unlikely that the owls' presence in this area is a recent development.

Reprinted from Alberta Wildlife Status Report No. 8 (1998), with permission from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

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