The scientific description of one of the subspecies of this owl is attributed to the Rev. John Henry Keen who was a missionary in Canada in 1896. Adults are 20 cm long with a 43 cm wingspan. They weigh 2.8 oz. (80 grams), making them one of the smallest species of owl in North America. The Northern Saw-whet Owl has a round, light, white face with brown and cream streaks; they also have a dark beak and yellow eyes. They resemble the Short-eared Owl, but are much smaller. The underparts are pale with dark shaded areas; the upper parts are brown with white spots. They are quite common, but hard to spot.
The Northern Saw-whet Owl makes a repeated sound like the tooting of a whistle. Some say its call sounds like a saw being sharpened on a whetstone, hence the name. Males usually make these calls to find a mate.
Its habitat is coniferous forests, sometimes mixed with or deciduous woods, across North America. They live in tree cavities and old nests made by other small raptors. Some are permanent residents, while others may migrate south in winter or move down from higher elevations.
Some have begun to move more southeast in Indiana and neighboring states.
Northern Saw-whet Owls lay about 5-6 white colored eggs in natural tree cavities or woodpecker holes. The father does the hunting, while the mother watches and sits on her eggs.
These birds wait on a high perch at night and swoop down on their prey. They mainly eat small animals such as small birds, mice, and the occasional chipmunk. On the Pacific Coast ,they may also eat crustaceans and aquatic insects. Like many owls, these birds have excellent hearing and exceptional vision in low light.
The following are owls of the species Northern Saw-whet Owls.