Northern Saw-whet Owl

Aegolius acadicus




Barn Owls, Typical Owls (Tytonidae & Strigidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:


Number of Eggs:

4 - 7

Incubation Days:

26 - 28

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

14 - 60 feet above ground.

Nest Material:

Uses no nest materials in tree cavity, abandoned woodpecker hole or nesting box.





Northern Saw-whet Owl: Small, large headed owl with brown upperparts and white underparts with thick brown stripes. Head has gray facial disk with white "Y” between eyes; lacks ear tufts. Bill is dark. Wings are brown with white spots. Sexes are similar. Juvenile is dark brown overall with buff-orange breast and belly, and white "Y” on face.

Range and Habitat

Northern Saw-whet Owl: Found from the southern coast of Alaska and across southern Canada to northern and central Mexico, but is absent from the southern U.S.; migrate to southern parts of range during winter, especially when food is scarce. Preferred habitats include dense coniferous or mixed hardwood forests.

Breeding and Nesting

Northern Saw-whet Owl: Four to seven white eggs are laid in a natural cavity or abandoned woodpecker hole. Incubation ranges from 26 to 28 days and is carried out by the female; male brings her food while incubating.

Foraging and Feeding

Northern Saw-whet Owl: Diet consists of insects, small rodents, moles, shrews, bats, birds, and frogs; can take prey near its own size; forages from low perches or by soaring along the edges of open parks and meadows.


Northern Saw-whet Owl: Only vocalizes during the breeding season. Primary courtship call is a monotonous, whistled "hoop", emitted at about 1½ notes per second, sometimes lasting for several hours. Territorial call is a series of short, clear notes. Common name comes from a "skiew" call made when alarmed, resembling the whetting of a saw. When approaching the nest with food, the male gives a rapid burst of toots, and the female responds with a soft "swEE."

Similar Species

Northern Saw-whet Owl: Northern and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls have yellowish bills and false eye spots on their napes.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
The front part of the head consisting of the bill, eyes, cheeks and chin.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X