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Northern Saw-whet Owl

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a wide-spread owl species found in Maine’s mixed and conifer forests. The edges of swamps and riparian zones along rivers and streams are particularly suitable for these owls. They are vocal in the spring, calling throughout the night, and peaking about 2 hours after sunset. These monotonous series of whistles which can be heard over great distances are used to advertise territories and court mates. Northern Saw-whet Owls are cavity nesters and nest within woodpecker excavations or man-made nest boxes. Fledged young typically stay in the vicinity of the nest and are fed by the male (and occasionally the female) for at least 1 month.

Safe Dates: April 1st to August 1st (applicable for only the S or H codes).

Breeding Evidence: Northern Saw-whet Owls can occasionally be found by day roosting in small conifers. For observations of these silent Saw-whet Owls within the safe dates and in appropriate breeding habitat, use code H. If you hear one singing its monotonous whistled song within the safe dates, use code S. The simplest way to upgrade this to a “Probable Breeder” is to listen again at the same location 7 or more days later to upgrade the code to S7. If there is evidence of young owls in the nesting cavity, use code NY, but note that we strongly discourage closely approaching or disturbing nesting birds.

Image courtesy of Dale Matthies.

Audio courtesy of Taylor Strum.

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