Deep Dive: Northern Saw-whet Owls

by OBDK on January 24, 2022

Northern Saw-whet Owls are pretty common owls that live in forest environments.1&2 They can usually be found in mixed coniferous and deciduous forests, and they’ll make their nests in the cavities of trees.2 These cavities are usually made by woodpeckers, and these owls will choose ones that are between 15 and 60 feet high.1


They stand between 7 and 8 inches tall and weigh around 2 to 5 ounces. Their wingspan reaches between 16 and almost 19 inches. They’re usually found in the forests of the northern regions of North America, but they’ll move further down into forests in central and southern regions of the United States during the winter.3


They are nocturnal and will roost during the day and hunt at night.2 They’ll go after mice, deer mice, voles, shrews, squirrels, and insects. These owls are so named because of their call that sounds like someone using a whetstone to sharpen a saw.1 It’s a shrill kind of call.3


These birds are pretty elusive. They’re very good at blending in when they’re perched in a tree, so even when people are looking for them, they’ll escape notice.1


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  2. Sibley’s Owls of North America, by David Allen Sibley. Published by Earth Sky + Water, LLC. 2016.