Merlin Bird Graphic

Merlin Bird ID

Try our free app foriOS | AndroidWeb version coming soon!
Recently Viewed Species

    Northern Saw-whet Owl

    ID Info
    Silhouette OwlsOwls

    Northern Saw-whet Owl

    Aegolius acadicus
    • ORDER: Strigiformes
    • FAMILY: Strigidae
    Basic Description

    A tiny owl with a catlike face, oversized head, and bright yellow eyes, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is practically bursting with attitude. Where mice and other small mammals are concerned this fierce, silent owl is anything but cute. One of the most common owls in forests across northern North America (and across the U.S. in winter), saw-whets are highly nocturnal and seldom seen. Their high-pitched too-too-too call is a common evening sound in evergreen mountain forests from January through May.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Northern Saw-whet OwlRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    It’s hard to see a Northern Saw-whet Owl, but you may hear them on quiet nights from January to May in forests of northern and western North America. Listen for a sharp, high, repeated too-too-too call. During the day these small, hard-to-find owls roost silently in dense conifers. Your best chance of seeing them is to pay attention to small songbirds—if they discover a roosting saw-whet, they’re likely to kick up a racket, calling and flying at the owl until it moves one.

    Other Names
    • Tecolote Oyamelero Norteño (Spanish)
    • Petite Nyctale (French)

    Backyard Tips

    If you live on an extensively wooded lot within the Northern Saw-whet Owl’s breeding range, consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

    • Cool Facts