The Northern Saw-whet Owl
A Northern Saw-whet Owl is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Northern Saw-whet Owls. We have also put together a list of fun Northern Saw-whet Owl t-shirts, Northern Saw-whet Owl bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
About Northern Saw-whet Owls
The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a small-sized owl with a catlike face. The bird is native to North America and dominant in Central America all year round. It has an oversized head coupled with bright yellow eyes. They are birds commonly denoted as practically bursting with attitude despite their silent nature. There probably could be some loss of numbers due to loss of habitats but this is not life-threatening.
Description and Identification
Northern Saw-whet Owls are very small at a length of 7.1 – 8.3 inches approximately. They
have large, rounded heads that lack ear tufts and short, pointed wings that have a wingspan
of 16.5 – 18.9 inches. These owls are mottled brown birds with a white facial disc that is
outlined with gray and spotted with white, features only further highlighted by their piercing
yellow eyes. Immatures are dark brown with cream-yellow breasts and bellies.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Color Pattern
They have a round face that is white in color accompanied by brown and cream streaks. They almost resemble the Long-eared Owl as they both lack ear tufts. The upper body is reddish-brown with white spots while their underparts are brown or light brown with cream streaking.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Size
They are fairly small birds with lengths in adults ranging between 17-22cm. The Northern Saw-whet Owl has a wingspan of 42-56cm. The common but rare to spot bird has an average weight of 54-151g.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Behavior
The Northern Saw-whet Owl is generally a monogamous bird but this changes with the abundance of prey. When prey is abundant, the male tends to have more than one mate. Breeding begins with the males calling on the female who responds with a whistling call. The male, while in flight, then circles the female about 20 times before perching beside them to present them with prey.
Songbirds mob around them as a tactic of scaring the Northern Saw-whet Owl away from their territory. An aspect that makes it easy to be spotted.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Food
Northern Saw-whet Owls are carnivores that primarily feed on small mammals, with a
majority of their mammalian prey being rodents. A study showed that over half of their
captured prey are deer mice, with shrews and voles making up the remainder of their diet.
Over 98% of their diet is small mammals, which can be compared with the related Northern
Pygmy Owls for which small birds make up a third of their diet. This demonstrates their high
adaptability to their environment and their surrounding predators, as Northern Saw-whet
Owls are often popular prey for larger birds. Other components of their diet include
chipmunks, flying squirrels, moles, bats, and passerine birds like swallows, sparrows,
kinglets, and chickadees; Populations on the Pacific coast also consume crustaceans, frogs,
and aquatic insects.
They mainly forage for small rodents like mice, voles, shrews, and young squirrels. Sometimes, they would feed on small birds and large insects.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Habitat
Their natural habitat is coniferous forests, but it can include mixed or deciduous woods
across North America as well. While most birds breed in coniferous forests, they migrate to
mixed or deciduous forests for winters. They are also drawn towards riparian areas due to
the abundance of prey in those regions. Studies have shown that these birds adapt to new
environments fairly quickly and can do particularly well in the cold. A 2006 study found that
these owls can breed in the far north as well, an area that was previously considered to be
well beyond their range. Populations in the United States are most abundantly found in the
Allegheny Plateau and in the south of the Appalachian Mountains.
The owl likes conifers, groves, and forests. They include open pine forests, white cedar swamps, spruce-fir coverings, and mixed woodlands like pine and oak.
Range and Migration
Another one of the smallest owls in North America, Northern Saw-whet Owls is found in the
dense forests of the United States. These birds are as elusive as they are silent, hunting for
their prey only during the nights and hardly ever being seen. Their range covers most of
North America south of the boreal forest, including southern Canada, almost all of the United
States, and the central mountains in Mexico. They have erratic migratory patterns and can
be resident to long-distance migrants. While many owls migrate south or to lower elevations
during the winters, many others choose to stay in their habitats throughout the year.
However, large flocks migrate large distances southwards about once every 4 years.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Life Cycle
A captured owl could live up to 17 years while the average lifespan of the Northern Saw-whet Owl in the wild is 7 years. They lay between 5-6 eggs per brooding season and are kept incubated for 27-29 days. The young leave their nest at 4-5 weeks after they hatch.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Nesting
Northern Saw-whet Owls can be found nesting in naturally occurring cavities in decaying
wood, or in woodpecker holes. Males are responsible for the selection of the nest sites as
they require a suitable cavity as well as cached food in order to attract a female. These
cavities are crucial as they compete with other species for them during the breeding season.
Once they have mated, the males hunt while the females incubate. They follow a sequential
polyandry mating system – meaning that once the offspring of the first nest begins to
develop their feathers, the mother will leave the father to care for them and find a new mate.
Each clutch has around 4 – 6 eggs, but a female may have multiple broods with different
males in a single season.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Northern Saw-whet Owls
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Northern Saw-whet Owls are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Northern Saw-whet Owl T-shirts
If you love the Northern Saw-whet Owl you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Northern Saw-whet Owl. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Northern Saw-whet Owls
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Northern Saw-whet Owls
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.