Cascades Raptor Center

Resident Raptor - Northern Saw-whet Owl


Saw-whet Owl Tristan  This bird was found in NW Oregon in October 2006, brought into a vet clinic, and then transferred to Wildlife Rescue of the North Coast with an injury to the left shoulder. Despite immobilization for 6 weeks, the wing did not heal sufficiently well to allow flight and migration. He was transferred to CRC in January 2007.
Adopt Tristan

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)

This is a small woodland species, with a relatively large head, a short tail, and long wings. This little owl has a prominent facial Courtesy of Barbara Gleasondisc of feathers, and lacks the ear-tufts seen in the larger Western Screech Owl. Females are larger than males, and the sexes look alike. Juveniles are a chocolate brown color above, a bright rust color below, with a white triangle on the forehead. Adult owls of both sexes have upperparts that are reddish-brown with white-speckles, and underparts that are white with a soft, rufous-brown streaking. The pale buff-colored facial disc frames white, v-shaped eyebrows, and a black bill. Flight is usually low and direct from one point to another, on rapid wingbeats with the wing held mostly below the horizontal.


Size - Length: 8" ave. • Wing Span: 17" ave. • Weight: 2.8 oz. ave.

Status - State and federally protected.

Habitat - These owls are found in a variety of woodland habitats, from dense coniferous forests, mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, riparian woods, to wooded swamplands. In breeding season, they favor mature to old-growth stands of trees for nesting, and roost during the day in or near the nest hole. In winter, these owls most often choose a daytime roost close to the end of a low evergreen branch, where they are easily approachable.

Diet - These little owls hunt most actively in the semi-nocturnal (dawn and dusk) hours, but are also nocturnal hunters. Rodents are their favorite prey; they locate potential meals from a low perch, then swoop down to pounce on prey on the ground. Other small mammals, birds, and insects are also taken.

Call - The distinctive call for which the Northern Saw-whet Owl is named is a rasping, metallic, screeching sound like a saw being sharpened: shhwweee!....shhwweee!....shhwweee!  A rising, cat-like, three-part screech. In breeding season, their main call is a very long, mellow, low whistled note poopoopoopoopoopoopoopoopoo..., rapidly repeating, up to 130 times per minute.

Nesting - These owls are primarily cavity nesters, and use old woodpecker holes in mature to old-growth stands of trees. They are also known to nest in dense vegetation in some areas, where tree cavities aren't available.

Most Common Problems - Collisions with vehicles, as well as flying into windows. Loss of prime breeding habitat is also a problem for this little woodland owl.

  ANCA Member

Cascades Raptor Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (Federal ID No. 93-1038827) dedicated to wildlife rescue and public education to enhance appreciation, respect, and stewardship of the natural world.


CRC logo art by Jeanne Hammond-Elliott.  Drawings by Barbara Gleason & Karl Edwards.  Photographic sources noted as provided.