Northern Saw-whet Owl

The Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) is a small owl with a short tail and a very large head. There are no ear tufts, and they have very large, yellow eyes. Their facial disc has a lot of white around the eyes with brown, grey and whitish streaks on the edge. The majority of the head is brown to grey brown. They have white streaking on their foreheads. Their bodies are covered in fluffy, brown or red- brown feathers with spots on their backs. They have streaks of white on their undercarriage. Their legs and feet are heavily feathered.

They are found permanently on the western part of the United States and in some of Mexico and the southern portion of Canada, including Ontario, Southern Quebec, northern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. They migrate south for the winter to areas of central and eastern United States, including the Atlantic coastline and the Ohio River Valley. They reside in coniferous and deciduous forests. These areas often have shrubs or new-growth thickets in which the owls like to make their nests. Nest sites include abandoned woodpecker cavities in trees. They often breed in swampy areas and Riparian zones where the female will lay between 3-7 eggs at a time and fully incubate the eggs. The breeding season is from March to April. The Northern Saw-Whet Owl is highly migratory, and thus does not always stay with the same mate from season to season.

The Saw-whet owl hunts at dusk and dawn and preys upon smaller mammals, including mice, shrews, voles, squirrels, bats, and sometimes birds, insects and frogs. Interestingly, when mice are plentiful, the Saw-Whet Owl may kill many at a time and bring them back to a tree cavity or other safe place to leave through the winter, preserved in the snow, until spring when they will eat them.  Threats to these owls often include predation by larger owls and hawks and competition with owls and squirrels for nest space.