Smart and endearing, learn about the Cuban pygmy owl
Meet our mascot and logo Sijú (pronounced see-WHO). She’s a Cuban pygmy owl. Her genus is Glaucidium siju. She’s endemic to Cuba, but some of her family have migrated to nearby Caribbean islands. How Cuban is that?
Sijú’s future seems safe, but she’s and exception among her other feathered friends in Cuba whose status is endangered.
We chose Sijú for our mascot and logo because she’s wise and she is a survivor – traits needed to navigate the ever changing legal and political relations between the United State and Cuba.
Plus Sijú is cute! Her colors are urban and rural camouflage chic – hands down high fashion. Her head is orange, and her sides and back brown cinnamon with white highlights on her tummy. Her dramatic eyebrows are whitish. She wears dark Arabic eyeliner that features big bight yellow to orangish eyes, and sports a perky white striped tail.
Pygmy owls have adapted to restrictive island conditions by down-sizing – just like many Americans who live from paycheck to paycheck. Cuban pygmy owls are about the size of a robin, weighing in at three ounces, and just six inches from beak to tail. Many other old and new world owls with space to grow are twenty times larger in all dimensions.
Sijú is unflappable and tenacious. She communicates with her fellows issuing a charming whistle-like chirp: “jiu,” and repeats it: “jiu, jiu, jiu, jiu,” beginning softly and increasing in volume over fifteen seconds.
Her breakfast, lunch and dinner consists of baby lizards, baby frogs, baby rodents, insects, and small birds. Sijú is a voracious carnivore (like most Cubans).
She stocks prey from branches close to her nest and stealthily swoops down on unsuspecting meals wandering below capturing them in her sharp talon’s death grip. Despite her vulnerable size, she shows little fear, even of approaching humans.
Sijú renews her family (finding a willing mate) every dry season during Cuba’s winter months. She lays three to four eggs. She incubates them, oversees hatching, feeds and teaches them. The jury is out on what her mate is up to during this time, or in general.
She is smart and efficient utilizing abandoned nests of other birds or making one in naturally occurring tree holes. Indeed her broad range of nesting grounds include coastal areas, mountains, forests of all types, and open lands and farms attests to her resourcefulness.
She works both day and night, like so many working and professional moms, to find food for her family. She employs a crafty disguise to thwart enemies: she sports two false eyes on the back of her head to thwart larger owl species, hawks and even crocodiles who like Cuban pygmy owl snacks.
Her legs are feathered because it gets cold on some Cuban nights – almost 42 degrees Fahrenheit during the months of December, January and February.
The vast range of the pygmy owl promises you’ll come across one of these birds when you’re traveling through the lush Cuban countryside.