FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL! “Nemesis” bird = #697

The only location in North America that one has a decent chance of hearing and hopefully seeing the fierce Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, a diminutive (6″), diurnal hunter of small mammals and even larger southern invertebrates, is on the privately owned King Ranch at the bottom of Texas. The ranch is physically larger than Rhode Island and despite the fact that naturalists have staked out several nesting areas, success is never guaranteed.

The weather was not flight-friendly Friday night and I missed the last connection to my destination – Harlingen. I landed in Houston at 9:45pm with decisions to make. I absolutely had to be at the Norias Division gates at 6am Saturday or I would miss the special van tour I had reserved months ago. Renting a car and driving 300 miles was looking like my best option until a quick-minded United agent reserved the penultimate seat on a (thankfully) delayed 10:30pm flight to Brownsville. Brownsville is south of Harlingen and a two hour drive to my meeting spot; but at least I would have a chance to search for my “Nemesis” bird.

Of course, this revised itinerary assumed I could rent a car in Brownsville. My recently elevated status to “Hertz Gold” ensured the presence of a rental agent upon my post-closing hour arrival. However, neither Hertz nor its competitors had a single vehicle available to rent! While one side of my brain was rationalizing the expense of a two hour taxi ride, my emotional half took over and blurted out: “I am a professional wildlife photographer and I’ll lose my contract with the King Ranch if I fail to show up”. The sympathetic agent eyed the two carry-on bags weighing me down and promptly released a vehicle from the VIP secret stash.

I have REALLY wanted to see this incredibly difficult to find little owl since the early 1990’s. Many trips to Arizona and Texas produced scores of great birds and memories…but this elusive, dynamo stood out as the only North American owl missing from my life-list. UNTIL YESTERDAY…#697!!!
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (King Ranch, Norias, Tx)

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL! “Nemesis” bird = #697

  1. Joe Knowles says:

    Beautiful little guy….looks anything but Texan!

  2. Jeffrey Dingle says:

    Love the story you pitched to the Hertz agent!

    3 to go . . .

    What’s left on the list to 700 that you have reasonable possibility of finding – seeing?


    Sent from myPhone

    • Hiya FFEJ. You know I always plan…but much of the fun are surprises that deviate from “the plan”. I want to end STRONG. No more introduced species or “LBJ’s”. So….in May, two days birding in SF with a guide should produce Mountain Quail and Black Rail. But I’m not counting the rail unless I SEE that one. Then to the Pribilofs in Alaska where Red-faced Cormorant and Red-legged Kittiwake are guaranteed. WHITE-TAILED EAGLE is MEGA rare but possible during my four days there (secretly, it is the major reason I’m going)..so I hope the Eagle is #700. I’m partial to raptors, as you know. I could chase Little Gull in the Susquehanna this wkd, or something else in April..but I’m resisting that temptation. Thanks for following….you were a catalyst for this obsession!!!

  3. Joe Cox says:

    Congratulations, George!!! Great story. Okay, now come here where we have a real owl, a big one and it’s baby. Three to go!!! Any chance you can get them in Florida? Joe

    Sent from my iPad


    • While no new birds are likely on yr island of paradise….would love to visit if we could ever match ALL of our schedules. Thanks so much for the invite…I’ll hold you to it!!

  4. Lindy Snider says:

    What is the owl doing with its wings in the second photo?

  5. Betsy Block says:

    Congrats George! What an amazing story… and owl!


    Sent from my iPad


  6. Jeffrey Wahl says:

    Very nice! Quite a story.

  7. David says:

    Whooooo!! Whoooo!!!
    That’s owl-speak for “nicely done, old boy.”

  8. Studio Babe says:

    Aren’t you missing a stop on your Texas trip? Congrats on 697!

  9. Doctor J says:

    Pretty exciting start to the final 4

  10. Lisa says:

    Three to go….piece of cake for you. Your excitement is contagious! Proud of you 🙂

  11. burkebiz says:

    CONGRATS! 3 to go to the big seven zero-zero.

    Sent from my iPhone KJB


  12. Ziesing, Peter R says:

    George – amazing story – what a trip – good bird too! PRZ

  13. Dorothy Weisbord says:

    Great story……wonderful bird.

  14. Jim Buck says:

    A beaut there, Woody. (Seeing King Ranch, I’m wondering did you connect in TX via the Vogt boys, in particular Brian?) Watching the weather there (in Arlington) for this afternoon’s opener. Knowing your other passion, you should’ve stayed to root on the Fightin’s. Now THAT would’ve been quite a trip!

  15. Kathy Stevenson says:

    They should make a movie about your quest. I’m thinking maybe Steve Martin and Owen Wilson… I love the Hertz story… Quick thinking, combined with desire and desperation = courage! Good luck!

  16. ANNE WOOD says:

    Why not a professional – then take it all off on your income tax stuff. Love from your mother who is getting happier for you. When is the celebration and where do you live now?.

  17. Thomas, Brinton (RBC Wealth Mgmt) says:

    #397 you can do it!!! Brinton


  18. david lincoln says:

    George –
    Why do you call this a “nemesis” bird?

    David Lincoln
    Three Radnor Corp. Ctr, Suite 410
    Radnor, PA 19087
    610.964.8004 x225
    P In the interests of the environment, please print only if necessary and recycle

  19. Tom Mason says:

    Impresive accomplishment to get all Owls in N.A.!!!

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