- A-Z Animals
The Saw-whet Owl is a species of common owls native to many parts of North America. Known for their ‘cute’ looks and small size (nearly the size of a robin), these birds can carry on with their rhythmic tooting song without a break. This species is common in various zoos from around the world, and are often seen sharing friendly terms with humans.
Size: Adults are 17–22 cm (6.7–8.7 in) in length with a wingspan of 42–56.3 cm (16.5–22.2 in).
Weight: Weighs between 54 and 151 g (1.9 to 5.3 oz), with the average being 80 g (2.8 oz).
Body Fur/hair/coat: The body is mottled and brown with a pale white facial disk, and a white-spotted head.
Face: The head is relatively larger than the body with the Y-shaped white marking in between and above the eyes, which is a unique feature of this species.
Eyes: Large, round eyes with the eyeballs seem to be surrounded by a bright yellow ring.
Tail: The tail is characterized by three bars.
Beak/Bills: The hard, durable bills have a twisted tip and are dark to blackish brown in coloration.
Sexual Dimorphism: No visual differences exist between the sexes, except that the females are a little larger.
In the wild, the saw-whet owls can live for up to 7 years, whereas in captivity, it is up to 16.
They are found only in the North American continent including southern Alaska, southern Canada, almost everywhere in the United States, as also, in some high-altitude regions in central Mexico.
The species primarily prefers forest areas, conifers, and groves including open forests with pine, spruce, fir, cedar, oak, poplar, or combinations, but usually close to swamps and with dense cover.
The saw whet owl has two distinct subspecies, viz. the Aegolius acadicus acadicus and the Aegolius acadicus brooksi.
The northern saw-whet owls are solitary, nocturnal birds, and are active throughout the night. During the daylight hours, they quietly brood in thick vegetation. Some of these owls, however, may continue to reside in the same area around the year.
Saw-whet owls communicate with each other and perceive their environment by using their senses of sound, vision and touch, as also, detect their prey. They are entirely chance predators of the night when they wait on low perches, swooping down on their prey when the victims pass by.
These are migratory birds; however, due to their nocturnal, reclusive nature, their migration behaviors have poorly been understood. However, the majority of northern saw-whets move south in autumn.
The song of these nocturnal birds is a series of whistled toots. For communication, the northern saw-whet owl uses vocalizations and visual cues. During mating or copulation, the male northern saw-whet owls vocalize to attract a female. They form a pair by preening each other’s feathers, using touch. This act strengthens or establishes a bond between the two.
Saw-whet owls mostly prefer eating deer mice, though they consume other species too. The owls would also eat young squirrels, shrews, voles, large insects, and small birds.
Just before the commencement of the breeding season, the male northern saw-whet owl emits calls continuously at night to protect its territory and find out a mate. The nests are made in the tree cavities at the height of 15 to 60 feet above ground level.
They usually use abandoned cavities made by woodpeckers. However, they would also choose artificial nest boxes, but will use a single nesting site only once.
All of the incubation of the eggs and brooding is done by the female northern saw-whet owl, whereas, hunting and finding food is the duty of the male.
The incubation period lasts for 3 to 4 weeks, while the juvenile owls fledge when they are 4 to 5 weeks old. Gradually, they begin leaving the nest one by one, until the entire brood vacates the nest.
The mother owl usually leaves the nest to roost in a different place just when the youngest nestling is around 18 days old. Then after, the father owl continues to supply them with food with the assistance of the older nestlings, as they help feed their younger siblings.
As the young ones learn to fly, they stay together close to their nest and are fed by the father for at least one more month. The female partner may find another mate and breed for the second time in one year.
The great horned owls have been seen predating upon the saw whet owls. However, other larger owl species are also thought to hunt them.
The IUCN 3.1 has enlisted the saw-whet owl as ‘LC’ (Least Concern).