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Tiny owls on U.S.-Mexico border to get long-awaited federal protections

By Alisa Reznick
Published: Thursday, July 20, 2023 - 3:34pm
Updated: Friday, July 21, 2023 - 10:05am

cactus ferruginous pygmy owl
Aaron Flesch
A cactus ferruginous pygmy owl pokes its head out of a nest in a saguaro cactus

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has moved to get federal protections for a tiny owl that lives on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cactus ferruginous pygmy owls weigh an average of 2.5 ounces each — about as much as a few double AA batteries.

It’s a small but mighty species with territory in southern Arizona, Texas and northern Mexico. But environmental activists say it’s been under threat for years from urban development, border infrastructure and climate change.

The species was protected in Arizona for almost a decade, between 1997 and 2006, but developers sued to remove the designation. Conservationists have been fighting to get new protections ever since. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services opened a public comment period to list the owl as an endangered species last December. The final rule is now set to go into effect.

Fronteras Science Climate ChangeEnvironment