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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Northern Saw-whet Owl -- Aegolius acadicus
(formerly Saw-whet Owl)

RANGE: Breeds from southern Alaska, central British Columbia, and central Alberta to southern Quebec and northern New Brunswick, south to southern California, central Mexico, extreme western Texas, central Missouri, southern Wisconsin, central Ohio, West Virginia, and New York; also in the mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Winters generally throughout the breeding range, south irregularly to southern Arizona, the Gulf Coast, and central Florida.

STATUS: Uncommon.

HABITAT: Favors dense woods, especially swampy areas of coniferous or hardwood forests. Also inhabits tamarack bogs, alder thickets, cedar groves, woodlots, and roadside shade trees; may take up temporary residence in or around a barn. Prefers cedar groves and vine clusters for roosting.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Tree cavities large enough for nesting and roosting.

NEST: Usually nests in abandoned nest holes of northern flickers, hairy woodpeckers, or other woodpeckers but will use natural cavities of suitable size. Usually nests 20 to 40 (range 14 to 60) feet above the ground. Occasionally uses nest boxes with a layer of straw or sawdust.

FOOD: Mostly eats small mammals; also preys on small birds, some insects, and frogs.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Heintzelman 1979, Johnsgard 1979, Karalus and Eckert 1974.

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