Pygmy owl Glaucidium passerinum and the usage of ultraviolet cues of prey


  • Oskari Härmä,

  • Santtu Kareksela,

  • Heli Siitari,

  • Jukka Suhonen

O. Härmä (, S. Kareksela, H. Siitari and J. Suhonen, Dept of Biological and Environmental Science, PO Box 35, FI-40014 Univ. of Jyväskylä, Finland. − OH and JS current: Section of Ecology, Dept of Biology, Univ. of Turku, FI-20014 Turku, Finland.


Birds rely mainly on their vision when foraging. Many diurnal raptors use ultraviolet (UV) vision and ultraviolet-reflecting vole scent marks to find suitable hunting areas, whereas nocturnal owls seem to lack this ability. We studied if the diurnal pygmy owl Glaucidium passerinum that uses voles and birds as its food can detect vole scent marks using UV-vision. We conducted a laboratory experiment with eleven owls. Each individual owl had four options to choose from: (1) scent marks with UV light, (2) scent marks without UV light, (3) clean arena with UV light and (4) clean arena without UV light. The owls scanned the scent mark arena more often in the presence of UV light than other arenas. However, owls did not spend more time above the UV arena. We suggest that pygmy owls can detect near UV and use UV to gain information about prey like other diurnal raptors.