Monday, July 5, 2010

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Also known as the Acadian Owl, Blind Owl, Sparrow Owl and about a dozen other names, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) is a relatively tiny little guy who measures only 8.5in in length and possesses a 20in wingspan. They are native to North America, and some, but not all, are migratory.

Image from Idaho Birding Trail
Northern Saw-Whet Owls are identified by their already mentioned small bodies, their lack of ear tufts, and their proportionally large heads. They are chestnut brown with various white markings, including a Y that forms over their eyes. Their large eyes are yellow, and the beaks are black. Northern Saw-Whet Owls are so named because one of their calls is said to resemble the sound of whetting a saw. They are quite vocal during the breeding season, but remain silent during the rest of the year.

As far as diet is concerned, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl really loves its rodents. Typically 70% to 80% of their diet consists of mice and voles, with the rest being filled in my insects, spiders, other birds, and even marine crustaceans. Larger prey, including mice, is consumed in two different meals, as it is possible for the owls to choke while attempting to consume their prey whole. Hunting takes place at night with help from night vision and superb hearing. They stake out their prey from low perches (6-12 feet above the ground) before silently swooping in.

Northern Saw-Whet Owls are monogamous, but not for life. Males attract females with their lovely singing voices, and will take them to the nest sites they have selected before doing a little head bobbing dance. Nests are built in tree cavities, and the female watches over the eggs while the male performs all of the hunting. Eggs hatch after 3-4 weeks, and fledging takes place 4-5 weeks after that. Captive individuals have lived 8 years, but the life expectancy in the wild is unknown. They are preyed upon by larger owls, other birds of prey, and larger (to them anyway) mammals.

Thanks to John for the suggestion!


  1. I love those eyes. But at times it brings fears ...

  2. I love owl eyes, its like they know... they just know!

  3. Captive Northern SawWhets have been documented at up to 16years in captivity. The Education Center where I work currently has one that is 11years old.

  4. The more I watch birds, the more I am amazed. In particular, I find the sheer variety of birds to be mind-boggling. We all know penguins can swim and we know they can't fly. And we all know that ducks can do both. These facts are understood whether you watch birds or not. But watching birds.


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