The Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) is often called the cutest owl ever.
But don’t be mistaken by its size. (These owls are close in size to the America Robin)
This tiny owl is packed with 2.8 ounces of ferociousness.
Northern Saw-whet Owls 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, this tiny owl is a delicious meal for a larger species of owl.
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 like other owl species, 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)
This owl is common and widespread in northern forests across boreal and mountainous North America.
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.
The Northern Saw-whet Owl’s song can only be heard at night.
It’s call is a repeated series of low, mellow-sounding whistled toots poo poo poo…or toit toit toit in endless succession 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 saw-whet owl is the most frequently banded owl in North America, with more than 5,600 encounter records.
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 this owl’s breeding range, put up a nest box to attract a breeding pair.
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.