Birds of the Bible – Little Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (captive) by Raymond Barlow

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (captive) by Raymond Barlow

When I did the first Birds of the Bible – Owls back in March of 2008, this blog was only a month old. Wow! I have always enjoyed the video that I included in it and have placed it here for those who have not seen it. The Burrowing Owls would definitely qualify as Little Owls. Since that article, we have added great photographers, videographers and writers. Trust this article on just the “Little Owls” will be helpful and a blessing as we look into the Birds of the Bible.

The Little Owl is mentioned in Leviticus 11:17 and again in Deuteronomy 14:16. As you can see by the following list of verses, that it is translated as “little” in many of them. These two verses are from the list of unclean birds that the Israelites  were not to eat. See Birds of the Bible – Clean vs. Unclean

And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, (Leviticus 11:17 KJV)

little owl,H3563…   (Leviticus 11:17 KJV+)

H3563 gives this definition: כּוס,  kôs,  koce

From an unused root meaning to hold together; a cup (as a container), often figuratively a lot (as if a potion); also some unclean bird, probably an owl (perhaps from the cup like cavity of its eye): – cup, (small) owl. Compare H3599. (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries)

The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, (Deuteronomy 14:16 KJV)

The little owl,H3563…  (Deuteronomy 14:16 KJV+) Same word used again.

Here are the results of  searchs in e-Sword looking for “owl” or “owls” to find which ones used “little owl.” These are the different translations and only those two verses used “little owl.”

Leviticus 11:17
and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,  (ASV)
And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,  (AKJV)
And the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl;  (BBE)
the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl,  (ESV)
little owls, cormorants, great owls, (GW)
and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl;  (JPS)
And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,  (KJV)
and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the eared owl;  (LITV)
and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the eared owl;  (MKJV)
and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl,  (NAS77)
and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl,  (NASB)
the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl;  (NKJV)
and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl;  (RV)
And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,  (Webster)
and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,  (YLT)

Asian Barred Owlet (Glaucidium cuculoides) by Peter Ericsson

Asian Barred Owlet (Glaucidium cuculoides) by Peter Ericsson

Deuteronomy 14:16
The little owl, the great owl, the horned owl,  (AMP)
the little owl, and the great owl, and the horned owl, (ACV)
The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, (AKJV)
The little owl and the great owl and the water-hen; (BBE)
little owls, great owls, white owls, (ERV)
the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl (ESV)
little owls, great owls, barn owls, (GW)
he little owl, the great owl, the horned owl, (ISV)
the little owl, and the great owl, and the horned owl; (JPS)
The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, (KJV)
the little owl, and the eared owl, and the barn owl, (LITV)
the little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, (MKJV)
the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, (NAS77)
the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, (NASB)
the little owl, the screech owl, the white owl, (NKJV)
the little owl, and the great owl, and the horned owl; (RV)
The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, (Webster)
the little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, (YLT)

Now that it is established that the “Little Owl” is a Bird of the Bible, what are some of the Little Owls that we can see today? What Order and Family do they belong? Let’s see what can be discovered.

To begin with, there are two Families of Owls in the Strigiformes Order. The Barn Owls, which are mentioned in the Bible, are in the Tytonidae Family and the rest of the Owls are in the Strigidae Family. That is where we will go to find the “little owls.” There are presently 206 species in the family, and they range from smallest (the smallest owls in the world; the Northern Pygmy Owl and the Elf Owl) to the largest Great Grey Owl (61 to 84 cm (24 to 33 in), averaging 72 cm (27 in) for females and 67 cm (26 in) for males.)

Little Owl (Athene noctua) by Nikhil Devasar

Little Owl (Athene noctua) by Nikhil Devasar

The Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium californicum) and the Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi) would both be considered “little owls.”

There actually is a Little Owl (Athene noctua) which is resident in much of the temperate and warmer parts of Europe, Asia east to Korea, and north Africa. It is not native to Great Britain, but was first introduced in 1842, and is now naturalised there. It was also successfully introduced to the South Island of New Zealand in the early 20th century. The Little Owl is a small owl, 9-10.8 in (23-27.5 cm) in length. The adult Little Owl of the most widespread form, is white-speckled brown above, and brown-streaked white below. It has a large head, long legs, and yellow eyes, and its white “eyebrows” give it a stern expression. This species has a bounding flight like a woodpecker. The call is a querulous kee-ik. (Wikipedia)

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) by Raymond Barlow

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) by Raymond Barlow

Our Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), seen here in Florida, is 10 in tall and can be quite comical as this video shows. Their necks are quite limber.

The Elf Owl lives the cactus in a desert. The elf owl migrates to Arizona and New Mexico in the spring and summer. In the winter, it is found in central and southern Mexico. Elf Owls feed mainly on insects and therefore occupy habitats with a ready supply of these. Agaves and ocotillos are ideal places for foraging as moths and other insects may sleep in their flowers. Elf owls are known to eat scorpions, somehow managing to cut off the stinger. They are often seen chasing after flying insects.

The Northern Pigmy Owl is native to Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Pygmy owls are purportedly “sit-and-wait” predators, though they in fact hunt somewhat actively, moving from perch to perch with short flights, and pursuing prey at all levels of forest structure. They swoop down on prey; they may also catch insects in flight. They eat small mammals, birds and large insects, and may take a variety of other vertebrates and invertebrates. Mountain Pygmy Owls occasionally take prey species the same size or larger than themselves.

The other owl in the Athene genus are the Spotted Owlet (Athene brama). The Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti) is 9 in/23 cm.

Costa Rican Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium costaricanum) by Michael Woodruff

Costa Rican Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium costaricanum) by Michael Woodruff

The Glaucidium genus, to which the Norther Pygmy Owl belongs has other little species which are either Pygmy Owls or Owlets:
Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum)
Collared Owlet (Glaucidium brodiei)
Pearl-spotted Owlet (Glaucidium perlatum) by Lee at National Aviary
Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium californicum)
Mountain Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)  ©WikiC
Costa Rican Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium costaricanum) by Michael Woodruff
Andean Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium jardinii)
Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium nubicola)
Yungas Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium bolivianum)
Colima Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium palmarum)
Tamaulipas Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium sanchezi)
Pernambuco Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium mooreorum)
Central American Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium griseiceps)
Subtropical Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium parkeri)
Amazonian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium hardyi)
East Brazilian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium minutissimum)
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum)
Pacific Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium peruanum)
Austral Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium nana)
Cuban Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium siju)
Red-chested Owlet (Glaucidium tephronotum)
Sjöstedt’s Barred Owlet (Glaucidium sjostedti)
Asian Barred Owlet (Glaucidium cuculoides) by P Ericsson
Javan Owlet (Glaucidium castanopterum)
Jungle Owlet (Glaucidium radiatum)
Chestnut-backed Owlet (Glaucidium castanotum)
African Barred Owlet (Glaucidium capense) ©Dave Appleton
Albertine Owlet (Glaucidium albertinum)

These are mostly small owls, and some of the species are called “owlets”. Most pygmy owl species are nocturnal and hunt mainly large insects and other small prey.

Little Owls in other genera are:
Long-whiskered Owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi)
Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus)
Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) by Ray
Unspotted Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius ridgwayi)
Buff-fronted Owl (Aegolius harrisii)

The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise. (Isaiah 43:20-21 KJV)

We should all praise the Lord for the fantastic way He has created His birds.

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See Also:
Owls Page
Birds of the Bible – Owls
Strigidae – Owls

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