Northern Saw-whet Owl

Aegolius acadicus

NH Conservation Status: Not listed

State Rank Status: No data for NH. Population trend is unknown.

Distribution: Fairly common year-round resident throughout NH. Northern populations migrate through the state in spring & fall.

Description: Up to 8” long with up to 19” wingspan. Smallest owl in NH with adult males weighing about as much as an American robin. Body color is whitish underneath with brown or reddish streaks, brown on top with white spots, pale brownish-whitish facial disks, yellow eyes and spotted head.

Voice: Late winter & spring series of tooting whistles. “Toot, toot, toot toot”.

Commonly Confused Species: Barred owls have similar markings and colors but are much larger in size.

Habitat: Moist mature woods & forested wetlands w/cavity trees, roosts and perches low to the ground for hunting and foraging.

Nesting: Breeding pairs are typically monogamous during the breeding season. Females nest in natural tree cavities, nest boxes, or holes made previously by either Northern flickers or pileated woodpeckers. A full clutch consists of 4-7 eggs, the female incubates the nest for up to 29 days and young hatch with their eyes closed and covered in white down. Hatchlings stay in the nest for 27-34 days before fledging. During this time the female keeps the nest clean and broods the young for 2-3 weeks then leaves to roost nearby. The male continues to bring food for another 10-14 days when the young leave the nest.

Diet: Primarily mice but will prey on other small mammals and occasionally on insects and small birds.