Living Bird Magazine
Boreal OwlAegolius funereus
- ORDER: Strigiformes
- FAMILY: Strigidae
In the dark of the night, the small Boreal Owl comes alive in the spruce and fir forests of northern North America and Europe. This bright-eyed, square faced owl sits and waits on a perch for small mammals and birds before gliding down talons first to grab it. From late winter through spring, its quick, hollow hooting sounds across the dark forest as the male calls for a mate. They spend the year in boreal forests, occasionally making their way farther south in years of prey scarcity.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Boreal Owls are fairly silent, except from mid-February to April; a good time to go looking and listening for one. Their highly nocturnal habits mean that you'll need to head out at night to get a glimpse or hear their low hooting calls. During daytime they roost quietly in a new site each day, so they’re a little like finding a needle in a haystack. Look for them in aspen, birch, or conifer trees around 15–20 feet above the ground, close to the tree trunk.
- Mochuelo Boreal (Spanish)
- Nyctale de Tengmalm (French)
If you live within the breeding range of a Boreal Owl, consider putting up a nest box. Boreal Owls readily accept nest boxes, just make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Head on over to NestWatch where you'll find plans to build a nest box sized just right for a Boreal Owl.
- Cool Facts
- As with most other raptors, the female Boreal Owl is much larger than the male. In fact, they show the most extreme sexual dimorphism of any American owl, with the female sometimes 2 times heavier than the male.
- The ear openings on a Boreal Owl's skull are asymmetrical, with one opening high up on the skull and the other much lower. The different positions of the ear openings help the owl find exactly where a sound comes from, helping gauge height as well as distance.
- The oldest recorded Boreal Owl was a male, and at least 8 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Idaho, the same state where it had been banded.