2.8 Ounces of Adorable Ferociousness

Meet the Northern Saw-whet Owl

2.8 Ounces of Adorable Ferociousness. Meet the Northern Saw-whet Owl

The Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) is often called the cutest owl ever.

But don’t be mistaken by its size. (Northern Saw-whet Owls are close in size to the America Robin)

This tiny owl is packed with 2.8 ounces of ferociousness.

Northern Saw-whet owls are one of the smallest owl species in North America.
Northern Saw-whet owls are one of the smallest owl species in North America.

Food Source

Northern Saw-whet Owl hunts at night from a low perch along the forest edge.

It’s most common prey are deer mice, white-footed mice, shrews, house mice, harvest mice, pocket mice, jumping mice, montane voles, red-backed voles, meadow voles, heather voles, red tree voles, shrew-moles, bats, and young squirrels.

During migration, they supplement their diet with birds, such as titmice, chickadees, kinglets, juncos, waxwings, sparrows, thrushes, wrens, warblers, robins, and even other small owl species.

They also eat beetles, grasshoppers, moths, and bugs.

But being so small, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is a meal for a larger species of owl.

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Appearance

But let’s face facts, the Northern saw-whet owl is adorable.

The owl is 8 inches long with a wingspan of 17 inches.

The Saw-whet Owl doesn’t have ear tufts but has a black bill and a prominent white ‘V’ on its face with broad reddish-brown streaks on its underparts and white spots on the shoulders. (Scapulars)

Northern Saw-whet Owl are the most frequently banded owl in North America
Northern Saw-whet Owl are the most frequently banded owl in North America

Habitat

The owl is common and widespread in northern forests across boreal and mountainous North America.

Northern Saw-whet Owls are easy to overlook because they nest in tree cavities.

The owl is nocturnal and roosts in dense foliage by day and hunts for small mammals at night.

Its secretive nature makes it difficult to draw the exact boundaries of its range.

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Behavior

The Northern Saw-whet Owl’s song can only be heard at night.

It’s a repeated series of low, mellow-sounding whistled toots poo poo poo…or toit toit toit repeated in endless succession and often repeated 100 to 130 times a minute.

The owl’s unusual name comes from one of its calls, which nineteenth-century naturalists likened to the sharpening, or “whetting,” of a saw blade.

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is the most frequently banded owl in North America, with more than 5,600 encounter records.

Northern Saw-whet Owls are named for their rhythmic tooting song which reminded settlers of the sound of a whetstone sharpening a saw
Northern Saw-whet Owls are named for their rhythmic tooting song which reminded settlers of the sound of a whetstone sharpening a saw

Breeding

It breeds in coniferous forest of various kinds, including open pine forest, spruce-fir associations, white cedar swamps, mixed woods such as pine-oak, spruce-poplar, and others.

In some places, the Northern Saw-whet Owl breeds in oak woodland or in streamside groves in arid country.

If you love owls and live in an extensively wooded are within the Northern Saw-whet Owl’s breeding range, put up a nest box to attract a breeding pair.

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Put Up an Owl Nesting Box

Put up the nest box well before breeding season and attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young.

Learn more about creating the right nest box for the right bird on Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Nest Watch page.

Now you have a mission.

Get out and see one of these adorable Northern Saw-whet Owls in the wild.

This article features images of our favorite Northern Saw-whet Owl, Mr. Higgins, from Christine’s Critters in Weston, CT. He survived a cat attack, but suffered a permanent wing injury and can no longer fly. Mr. Higgins is one of Christine’s education birds and through his story helps to educate others about the importance of humans coexisting with nature.

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