Saw-Whet Owl

Last Updated on April 4, 2023 by Susan Levitt

If you’re looking for a tiny, yet mighty owl, then you’ve found it! The Saw-whet Owl is a small but fierce bird that has captivated the hearts of birdwatchers and enthusiasts everywhere. Just the sight of this beautiful creature is enough to make anyone fall in love. But what else do we know about the Saw-whet Owl? Let’s take a closer look at this amazing bird and discover more about its unique features and habits.

The Saw-whet Owl measures between 7 and 8 inches tall with a wingspan of approximately 16 inches. This species can be found in North America, typically in coniferous or mixed forests near wetlands. They are nocturnal hunters and feed mainly on mice, voles, shrews and other small birds. These owls are also incredibly vocal creatures, often making loud calls during mating season or when they feel threatened.

Not only is the Saw-whet Owl an incredible species to observe but they also play an important role in our natural environment as predators that help to keep populations of small animals under control. In this article, we will explore more about their habitat, diet and behavior as well as why these birds are so important to us. So come along on this journey as we uncover the secrets of the majestic Saw-whet Owl!

Species Description

Coincidentally, the saw-whet owl is one of the smallest owls found in North America. It stands at only 7-8 inches in height and has a wingspan of 17-20 inches. These nocturnal birds are highly adapted to their environment with a brownish gray coloration that helps them blend into the bark of trees. Their facial disc is made up of white and black feathers that help it locate prey in the dark. Not only do they have excellent hearing, but also have large yellow eyes which help them see better at night. They also have curved talons to capture prey, making them true predators.

Their geographic distribution stretches across most of North America and parts of Canada, extending from Alaska to Northern Mexico. This species can be found inhabiting different kinds of forests such as coniferous, deciduous, mixed woodlands and riparian habitats. They prefer dense vegetation for nesting and roosting sites during the breeding season. As migratory birds, some saw-whet owls migrate southwards for wintering grounds during autumn months when food resources become scarce in their home range.

Geographic Distribution

The Saw-Whet Owl is widely distributed throughout the continent of North America, with a range that extends from southern Canada to Central Mexico. It can be found in many habitats such as forests, woodlands and even suburban areas.

In the US, the Saw-whet Owl is most common in the eastern half of the country but it can also be found in some western states. Its preferred habitat includes mature deciduous or coniferous forests, but it is also known to inhabit open woods, swamps and riparian areas. In Mexico, it is mainly found in pine-oak forests at higher elevations.

The Saw-Whet Owl’s geographic distribution reflects its versatility as it adapts easily to different environments and habitats. With this adaptability comes an opportunity for these owls to expand their range even further as they explore new habitats and find food sources. Next we will take a look at the Saw-whet Owl’s habitat and behavior.

Habitat And Behavior

The saw-whet owl lives in deciduous and coniferous forests, especially those with mature trees and plenty of undergrowth. They can also be found in city parks, rural gardens, and suburban areas. Saw-whet owls are nocturnal birds and hunt for their prey at night. During the day they remain hidden in dense foliage or tree cavities. They also roost in trees during the day, though they may move to different spots every night to avoid predators.

Saw-whet owls are generally solitary creatures but do come together during mating season. They are monogamous and mate for life, making their nest in tree cavities or old woodpecker nests. The male brings food to the female while she incubates the eggs and cares for the young until they fledge. With this next step, we’ll learn more about the physical characteristics of saw-whet owls.

Physical Characteristics

Switching gears, let’s take a look at the physical characteristics of the saw-whet owl. These are one of the smallest species of owls, measuring just 7 to 8 inches in length with a wingspan of 18 to 24 inches. They have big, round heads and bright yellow eyes, which help them see clearly in the dark. As far as coloring is concerned, these birds have a mix of grays and browns on their upper parts and white or light brown feathers on their underparts.

The saw-whet owl also has some distinct markings that help it blend in with its surroundings. Its face is lined with black feathers and its chest has white spots or bars that resemble a saw blade. This helps camouflage them from predators and prey alike. With such unique features, it’s easy to understand why this bird is so beloved by birdwatchers around the world.

From their physical characteristics to their behavior, there’s no doubt that the saw-whet owl is an interesting and fascinating creature. Next up we’ll discuss what they eat and where they find food sources.

Food Sources

The diet of the Saw-whet owl consists mostly of small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews. The owl also consumes birds, some insects, frogs and lizards. They hunt by perching on a branch or fence post and scanning for prey near the ground, then swooping down to capture it with their talons.

In winter months when small mammals are scarce, the Saw-whet owl will sometimes scavenge for food in garbage cans. They may also feed on carrion or feast on berries and fruits when available. With its sharp eyesight and hearing, this species is an adept hunter that can easily survive in many environments. Moving forward, we’ll look at how they reproduce and develop.

Reproduction And Development

Transitioning from food sources, the reproduction and development of saw-whet owls are a testament to their hardiness in the wild. As winter approaches, these birds will start to pair up and form relationships with one another that can last for years. To illustrate this point, one nest box study in Ontario showed that as many as 24% of the monitored pairs returned to their box year after year.

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As mating season begins, the female saw-whet owl will lay anywhere from four to seven eggs in her nest. The incubation period for these eggs is usually around 28 days, though this can vary depending on the climate and weather conditions. Once they hatch, the young owls are feed by both parents until they eventually fledge at around five weeks old. After a few more weeks of learning how to hunt and survive on their own, they will be ready to leave the nest and begin life on their own.

The next step in this journey is adaptation, which plays an important role in helping saw-whet owls survive in their environment.


The saw-whet owl is a small owl with a variety of adaptations that help it survive in the wild. It has large eyes, which allow it to see at night. Its feathers are brown and white, which help it blend in with its environment and avoid detection. Its wings are short and rounded, allowing it to fly silently through trees and brush.

It also has several other adaptations that make it well-suited for life in the wild:

  • Hearing
  • It has an acute sense of hearing, allowing it to detect its prey from afar.
  • It can also hear the sound of approaching predators, giving it time to flee.
  • Camouflage
  • The brown and white feathers help the saw-whet owl blend into its habitat, making it difficult for predators to spot them.
  • They have also been known to roost in hollow trees or burrows, further helping them remain hidden from view.

The saw-whet owl is an amazing creature whose adaptations have enabled it to thrive in the wild for centuries. With this knowledge we can now move on to learn about their conservation status.

Conservation Status

Having discussed the adaptations of the saw-whet owl, it is now time to delve into its conservation status. To lift a page from the book of conservation threats, the saw-whet owl faces numerous obstacles that threaten their survival. Primarily, habitat destruction due to human activity has caused a drastic reduction in suitable nesting areas for this species. Other factors include climate change and increased predation pressure from both native and non-native predators.

In addition, collisions with vehicles have been cited as a major mortality factor for this species. As more roads are constructed in areas with high saw-whet populations, these birds become increasingly vulnerable to being hit by cars and trucks on the highway. As such, new roadways should be designed with proper barriers or other measures to reduce potential collisions with this species.

Moving forward, it is important to focus on mitigating these threats in order to ensure a successful future for the saw-whet owl. With that said, it’s time to shift our attention towards interactions between humans and this avian species.

Interactions With Humans

The saw-whet owl is an elusive bird, so it rarely interacts with humans. It will avoid confrontation by flying away or hiding in dense foliage if approached too closely. However, there are some instances when people have come into contact with the saw-whet owl. In certain cases, it has been known to coexist peacefully with people, although this is rare.

These owls may sometimes use human-made structures as nesting sites and roosting areas, but they prefer to nest in natural trees and other vegetation. They are also attracted to bright lights at night, such as those from street lamps and buildings, which can make them more visible and easier to spot.

This section on interactions with humans has shown that the saw-whet owl is usually a solitary creature that prefers to remain hidden from humans. Its tendency to avoid contact with people makes it difficult for us to observe its behavior in the wild. Moving on, let’s look at some interesting facts about this species of owl.

Interesting Facts

The saw-whet owl is the smallest species of owl in North America, standing at an average of 7-8 inches tall and weighing around 3.5 ounces. In addition to its small size, it is also known for its unique call that resembles a sharp whistle, or ‘toot’. Remarkably, these tiny birds can be found in every US state except Hawaii.

This species is nocturnal and can be seen out during the night hunting for small mammals such as mice and voles. They are also adept hunters during the day when they perch on low vegetation or tree branches surveying their surroundings. Saw-whet owls have adapted to their environment in various ways including having feathers with a soft patterned fringe which helps them blend into the shadows and remain undetected while hunting.

These owls typically make their homes in dense wooded areas where they can hide away from predators. Their nests are generally made up of several sticks which are placed high up in a tree cavity or abandoned nest box. You may even find a saw-whet owl nesting in your backyard if you have dense trees nearby!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Saw-Whet Owls Endangered?

It is a valid question to ask whether saw-whet owls are endangered. The answer may come as a surprise; although they face certain threats, these birds are not currently classified as endangered. Despite this, it is important to keep an eye on the population and their habitats as changes in the environment can always cause shifts in their numbers.

The saw-whet owl is relatively small, measuring just 8 to 10 inches tall with a wingspan of 21 inches. It can be found throughout North America, including parts of Canada and Mexico. However, its populations have been declining due to human activity such as habitat destruction and fragmentation, which has reduced their available living space. In addition, they are also threatened by predation from other animals such as cats, foxes, and hawks.

Therefore it is important that conservation efforts continue to protect these birds from further decline. This includes protecting existing habitats from destruction and fragmentation, as well as preventing hunting or trapping of the owls for their feathers or meat. Additionally, research should be conducted into the population numbers of saw-whet owls so that any changes in their numbers can be identified quickly and appropriate action taken to prevent further declines in their population size.

How Can I Attract Saw-Whet Owls To My Backyard?

The mystery of the Saw-whet Owl’s elusiveness may only be solved by the one willing to set aside the conveniences of modern life and seek out its hidden secrets. Attracting these mysterious creatures to your backyard can seem daunting, but with a little effort, you’ll be rewarded with a captivating glimpse of nature at its finest.

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First, it’s important to provide an environment that mimics the Saw-whet Owl’s natural habitat. A few small trees and shrubs will help nestlings feel safe and secure while ample cover is necessary for adults during nesting season. You may also want to consider adding some birdhouses that are specifically designed for owls; these should include small entrances designed to discourage larger predators from entering. Additionally, providing a variety of perches such as logs or rocks can give them multiple places to roost and hunt during the day.

Next, it is important to find food sources that are attractive to owls. Many species of rodents such as voles, mice, and rabbits make up the bulk of their diet so providing areas where these creatures thrive is essential. Placing bird feeders in your yard can also attract other wildlife that owls prey on like jays and woodpeckers. By giving them access to plenty of suitable prey, you’ll increase your chances of drawing in Saw-whet Owls looking for their next meal.

By following these steps and creating an inviting outdoor space for Saw-whet Owls, you’ll be able to witness first hand the beauty and grace of these magnificent birds as they soar through your own backyard!

Are Saw-Whet Owls Active During The Day Or Night?

Saw-whet owls are a fascinating species of bird, but when it comes to their activity level, there is a lot of uncertainty. Are they active during the day or night? To answer this question, we must first understand the habits and behaviors of saw-whet owls.

To begin with, saw-whet owls are nocturnal creatures; they are most active at night. During the day, they usually roost in trees and shrubs so that they can easily hide from predators. They also use their camouflaged feathers to blend into the background and avoid detection. When it comes to food sources, they feed on small rodents like mice, voles, and shrews. Furthermore, they have excellent hearing capabilities that help them locate prey even in darkness.

In addition to being nocturnal, saw-whet owls have a few other interesting behaviors that can draw attention:

  1. They often use calls or songs to communicate with one another
  2. They practice courtship rituals in order to attract mates
  3. They display territorial behavior towards other birds or animals
  4. They show aggressive behavior if disturbed or threatened by potential predators

Overall, saw-whet owls are mainly active during the night but may also be seen during dawn or dusk hours as well as during the day if disturbed or threatened by predators. By understanding their habits and behaviors better, we can better appreciate these amazing birds and learn how to adapt our own backyard spaces accordingly.

What Is The Average Lifespan Of A Saw-Whet Owl?

The average lifespan of a saw-whet owl is typically short, ranging from four to five years. While this may seem like a brief amount of time, it’s still quite an accomplishment for a small owl species that’s native to North America.

In the wild, saw-whet owls have been known to survive for:

  • Up to 5 years
  • Through several migrations
  • Through harsh winter conditions.

These birds face a number of threats in the wild, including predation from larger predatory bird species and habitat loss due to deforestation and urbanization. Despite these challenges, the saw-whet owl continues to thrive in its natural environment thanks in part to its impressive adaptation skills. The fact that they can survive such a short life span in these conditions is testament to their resilience and determination.

While they may not live as long as other owl species, these birds still make an impact on the environment and are valued members of their ecosystems. Their presence serves as an indicator of healthy habitats with plenty of food, water, and nesting opportunities – all things that are essential for them to thrive.

How Much Does A Saw-Whet Owl Weigh?

The weight of a saw-whet owl is something that many people are curious about. These small nocturnal birds have many fascinating characteristics, and their size makes them even more alluring. The average weight of this species of owl can vary depending on its age and gender.

An adult saw-whet owl typically weighs between 3.2 and 5.3 ounces, though males tend to be lighter than females:

  • Males:
  • Average weight: 3.2 – 4.0 ounces
  • Range: 2.6 – 4.3 ounces
  • Females:
  • Average weight: 4.2 – 5.3 ounces
  • Range: 3.6 – 6.0 ounces
    Younger birds may weigh less than adults, depending on their age and sex; the average weight for juvenile owls is between 2 and 4 ounces, with males usually weighing less than females in this category as well.

Saw-whet owls are one of the smallest owl species found in North America, so it’s not surprising that they have relatively light weights compared to other types of owls such as great horned or barred owls which can weigh up to five times more than a saw-whet owl! Knowing this information can help birders identify these elusive creatures when they’re out in nature observing wildlife.


It’s easy to fall in love with the saw-whet owl. They’re small, cute and full of personality. Although they are not considered an endangered species, it’s important to protect them and their habitats so that future generations can enjoy these amazing birds.

I’m often asked how people can attract saw-whet owls to their backyard. The best way is to create a habitat that is attractive to them, including plenty of trees, shrubs and grasses; as well as food sources like insects, spiders, worms and small mammals.

Did you know that saw-whet owls are primarily active during the night? This makes sense since they hunt for food at night when visibility is low. Additionally, the average lifespan for a saw-whet owl is about five years and they typically weigh around 4 ounces. It’s amazing how such a small creature can survive in the wild!

If you’ve ever seen a saw-whet owl in person you know what an incredible experience it is! These little birds have so much personality and character that it’s hard not to be impressed by them. I hope more people take the time to appreciate these wonderful creatures and all they have to offer us!

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