Costa Rican Pygmy Owls hunt from a low perch in dense forest. They wait for small prey, usually birds, lizards, or large insects, and then strikes in swift flight. If the target is missed, the bird returns to perch rather than pursuing. Like other pygmy owls, they swish their tails from side to side when agitated.
The owls call mainly in early morning, late afternoon and at night with a long, slow song of randomly spaced, clear toots. Sometimes the sounds appear to come in groups of two or three. When excited, the owls give a faster, higher series of five toots.
This species prefers canopy and edges of highland forests and adjacent habitat, and sometimes even enters pastures and plains with scattered trees.
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