Northern Saw-Whet Owl

(Aegolius acadicus )

The Northern Saw-whet Owl's habitat is dense, coniferous forest, wooded swamps and bogs. It is the smallest owl in eastern North America.

The name Saw-whet comes from its song, which is similar to the sound produced when using a file to sharpen a saw blade. To "whet" a saw is to sharpen it.


Northern Saw-whet Owls are very tame and retiring. They migrate south each winter to get below the snow belt. With a diet of mainly rodents and insects, it is very difficult to find food during the harsh winters of New York state. Also, their very small size and cold temperatures makes it difficult to maintain their body temperatures of 102-105 degrees F.

Northern Saw-whet Owls are cavity nesters which nest in abandoned woodpecker holes and natural cavities in trees. They do not use any lining materials in their nests beyond occasional molted feathers and parts of broken pellets.

The female lays four to seven very small white eggs. She starts incubation immediately after laying the first egg so the young hatch asynchronously. If disturbed at nest, the adults will refuses to leave the cavity. Northern Saw-whet Owls roost during the day perched in a tree or in a tree cavity. Saw-whets are most active at dusk and just before dawn, crepuscular hunters.

Like Screech Owls, Northern Saw-whet Owls will use nest boxes if they are available.

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