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Effective August 21, 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has relisted the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl (pygmy-owl) as a threatened species with a Section 4(d) rule under the Endangered Species Act. The rule prohibits take of the pygmy-owl, except for take arising from certain conservation and monitoring activities.

The pygmy-owl first received federal protection in 1997 but was delisted in 2006. Prompted by a petition and subsequent litigation, in December 2021, the USFWS proposed to list the species again. This final rule is the USFWS’s latest determination regarding the status of the pygmy-owl. 



USFWS’s rage map from the 2023 Species Status Assessment

The pygmy-owl’s range is primarily in Mexico, where the species is quite common, but the pygmy-owl also occurs in parts of southern Arizona and south Texas. The pygmy-owl nests in the cavities of trees in Texas and Arizona and also in saguaro cacti in Arizona.

The USFWS identifies habitat loss and fragmentation and climate change as the primary threats to the pygmy-owl. These threats act through urbanization, invasive species (particularly buffelgrass), and agricultural or forest production, or result from increasing temperatures, decreasing precipitation, and increasing intensity of weather events. Land development, agricultural activities, and pipeline and utility line projects in pygmy-owl habitat could be affected when the listing becomes final.



Review the Final Rule: The USFWS published the final rule in the Federal Register on July 20, 2023, at:



We supported our clients with technical analysis, scientific research, and regulatory compliance services when the pygmy-owl was previously listed. Our experienced biologists and regulatory specialists can help you understand the rule listing and explore ways to minimize risks to project timelines and budgets.

With questions or for more information, please contact:

egladding [at] swca [dot] com (subject: USFWS%20Relists%20the%20Cactus%20Ferruginous%20Pygmy-Owl) (Eleanor Gladding) | Lead Biologist, Arizona
psunby [at] swca [dot] com (subject: USFWS%20Relists%20the%20Cactus%20Ferruginous%20Pygmy-Owl) (Paul Sunby) | Principal Biologist, Texas