The World's Tiniest Owl Can Fit In Your Lunchbox

Owls are pretty mystifying creatures. With the ability to spin their necks nearly 270 degrees, see in the dark, and zone in on prey with almost alien-like precision, owls are everyone's favorite (yet somewhat creepy) avians (via Audubon). Most owl representations we see in media are of larger species, like Harry Potter's Snowy Owl, Hedwig, a species that could measure up to 28 inches tall and weigh around 105 ounces (via All About Birds).

Even more epic in size, you may remember The Great Horned Owl from watching Don Bluth's "The Secret of NIMH." As creepy and disturbing as that guy is in cartoon form, in real life, he could stand almost three feet tall with a wingspan of over six feet (via Britannica). The largest North American owl –- the Great Gray Owl — is even bigger than that at around two feet tall. As monstrous as these wondrous winged beasts can be, would you believe one of them could be as small as a juice box (via All About Birds)?

The (Fittingly Named) Elf Owl

Measuring in at about 6 inches tall and weighing in at 1 ½ ounces, we have the Elf Owl (via Audubon). As mentioned, this bird is no taller than a juice box, and also keep in mind, a golf ball is about 1 ⅗ ounces (heavier than this owl) (via Honest Golfers). While this may seem cute enough, some members of the species bark like puppies when they communicate, they work with other woodland creatures to survive, and they depend on (only slightly) larger birds to build their nests for them, which they then take over (via All About Birds).

They are considered the world's smallest raptors and live in various dry climates like forest ecosystems, deserts, and woodlands in Mexico and the southern United States. In these habitats, they nest in woodpecker holes where they can hide their cute little bodies from the elements and from other animals that might want to hurt them.

Adorable Behavior

In the wild, Elf Owls only live about six years, but in captivity, they've been known to survive for up to a decade (via the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum). During their short lifespan, as stated, they often fill the homes of Golden-front, Acorn, Gila, Ladder-back, and Arizona woodpeckers (via All About Birds). They also tend to take over Gilded Flicker nests and share their homes with tree ants and thread snakes, who keep nest parasites away from nestlings. As if we could handle any more cuteness from this tiny bird, while most owls devour snakes and insects, this species befriends them (although they still eat some insects ... don't tell the ants).

But these little cuties aren't entirely co-dependent on other species to protect them. They can seriously kick some butt if they want to — in numbers. Particularly during nesting season, Elf Owls join together in what is called a "mob" to intimidate large predators like snakes, bigger owls, and mammals. Luckily, Elf Owls are seldom aggressive, and if you have a hospitable place for them to live, you may even get to meet one. Elf Owls are known to nest in yards with plenty of trees and appreciate nest boxes being made available to them. So while you may be putting a woodpecker out of the real estate business, you could be a welcoming host for a family of these tiny critters.