Northern Saw-whet Owls are common in forests across southern Canada and the northern U.S. In early autumn, many move southward, making a large concentration especially in the region of the Great Lakes. To our ear, the "advertising call" of the male, made mostly in spring and summer, sounds awfully repetitive, a bit like the back-up signal of a vehicle. At less than three ounces, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl is one of the smallest owls in North America.
Northern Saw-whet Owl Hoots and Hoots
By Chris Peterson
This is BirdNote!
[Advertising call of Northern Saw-whet Owl recorded by D. Ross]
This past summer, a man trying to sleep got really annoyed with his neighbor on the other side of the woods who, he thought, kept backing up a big truck. The next day he grumbled; “What were you doing? It kept me up most of the night!”
“Oh, you musta heard the Saw-whet Owl!” the neighbor said.
[Repeat advertising call of Northern Saw-whet Owl recorded by D. Ross]
Named for what, to some, sounds like a saw being sharpened on a stone, Northern Saw-whet Owls are common in forests across southern Canada and the northern U.S. At this time of year, many move southward, making a large concentration especially in the region of the Great Lakes.
To our ear, the “advertising call” of the male, made mostly in spring and summer, sounds awfully repetitive. But researchers think female Saw-whets hear variety. See if you can. Here are two males – listen carefully to the pacing of their hoots:
Here’s the first [recorded by D. Ross – same call we’ve been hearing].
Here’s the second [recorded by G.A. Keller].
Some give a prelude to their advertising call [recorded by T.G. Sander].
In the fall, the birds make a “Skew” call [recorded by S. Weidensaul].
And here’s a “twitter call” with a snap of the bill [recorded by W.W.H. Gunn]
Quite a variety for one of North America’s smallest owls, the Northern Saw-whet….
For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.
[Advertising call, recorded by G.A. Keller]
Sounds of the Northern Saw-whet provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Note recordists above.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2011 Tune In to Nature.org October 2018 / 2020 Narrator: Mary McCann
Birds of North America: Northern Saw-whet Owl, Issue No. 042 – Revised: April 7, 2008, Authors: Cannings, Richard J., Revisors: Rasmussen, Justin Lee, and Spencer G. Sealy