Length: 15.5-18 cm. As the name implies Northern Pygmy Owl are small owls. As with several other owl species, they are “earless” (lacking ear tufts on the head). Adult plumage for this subspecies is the same on both sexes and “reverse sexual dimorphism” (females being larger than males) is evident. The body is plump with a long narrow tail that the bird flicks up and down when perching. Dorsal and wing plumage is brown to reddish brown with large white spots. The head is brown, speckled with white and the yellow eyes have white eyebrows. Chest and belly plumage is creamy white with dark bars and streaks. The long dark brown tail has white horizontal barring. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but do not develop spots on the body or head until they mature. This owl is diurnal (active during the day) and more specifically crepuscular (hunt at dawn and dusk), and is often a target of defensive aerial “mobbing” from other birds (e.g. crows). Two distinct black “eyespots” outlined in white on the back of the head are thought to confuse and distract birds when they attack, possibly protecting the front of the head and eyes. Recent DNA evidence suggests the present designation of G. gnoma may warrant reclassification to G. californicum, composed of four distinct western races in North America. There has been little studied on the swarthi subspecies and much about its biology is inferred from the mainland form.