The Northern Saw-whet owl, Aegolius acadicus, being owly in a conifer, the only trees that provide cover during the winter months. Nocturnal animals, owls sleep and rest during the day either in cavities or deep within the protective branches of trees.
This photo was taken in the New York Botanical Garden two winters ago. The garden also hosts Great-horned owls, who, being one of our largest and boldest predators, will often be seen roosting in the relative open. Saw-whets are often considered tame because they don’t immediately flee from people, but according to the Cornell Lab, their staying in place is actually the way they defend their territory. So bugger off, hominid. Here’s some more info on a Saw-whet banding project in PA. I’ve read elsewhere that the Saw-whets may be our most common owl, and this banding project certainly suggests there are a lot of them.
One showed up briefly in Park Slope this past November.
Saw-whets are named for the supposed similarity of their vocalizations to the sound of a saw being sharpened on a whet stone. Um, it’s been a while since I did that, though…so to me it sounds a little more like sonar in a submarine movie.
Saw-whets, like most of our owls, are opportunistic eaters. Great Horned owls, the biggest species, tends to go for larger prey, while the little owls eat small mammals like mice, shrews, voles; they eat birds and bats; they eat frogs, snakes, salamanders, and lizards (actually, we do have lizards in the region; imported Italian fence lizards to be exact); they eat snails, worms, and insects, lots of insects. There are no, or very few, insects in winter, so their eating is also seasonal.
Owl Week continues….