Northern Saw-whet Owl

Earliest Date: Aug 17
Latest Date: Nov 16
Peak Migration: 1 – 31 Oct

This species takes its name from some of its calls, which sound like a person whetting (sharpening) a big mill saw.

Other names: Acadian owl, Kirtland’s owl, saw-filer, sparrow owl, whetsaw, white-fronted owl.

Hunting habits: Eats mostly insects, woodland mice, small rats, young flying and red squirrels, chipmunks, shrews, bats, sparrows, juncos, warblers, winter wrens, and thrushes.

Migrating habits: The most abundant owl captured at Hawk Ridge in the fall. Migrants travel low through the trees and brush. Occasionally the birds can be heard calling in the fall.

Nesting habits: Nests in abandoned woodpecker holes, natural cavities, and wood duck and flicker boxes. Female does most of the incubating. It takes the eggs 26-28 days to hatch, and the young first fly about a month after hatching.

Length: 18-22 cm

Wingspan: about 42 cm

Weight: 85-115 grams

Life expectancy: 2 owls originally banded at Hawk Ridge were recaptured in Sawyer, Minnesota, one when it was almost 6 years old, and one at 7 years, 4 months. One banded Saw-whet lived 7 years, 5 months. Two females lived in captivity for 17 years, and both were originally captured as adults.

Image Credits: Michael Furtman