Support
Subscribe
Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.

DONATE

You are here

Northern Saw-whet Owl - A Bird with a Lot to Say

Listen! You may hear something truly hair-raising.

For such a small owl, the Northern Saw-whet has a lot to say. And a lot of ways to say it. Males weigh about as much as an American Robin. And they send out at least 11 different calls, including “toot-toot-toot” advertising calls, from late January through May. The rate of calling is partly determined by the nighttime temperature. And perhaps to keep other Saw-whets out of a food-rich territory, males may toot more frequently when their favorite prey, white-footed mice and deer mice, are plentiful.

This show brought to you by The Bobolink Foundation.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Northern Saw-whet Owl - A Bird With a Lot To Say

Written by Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote.

[Toot-toot-toot “advertising call” of the Northern Saw-whet Owl]

For such a small owl, the Northern Saw-whet has a lot to say. And a lot of ways to say it. Male Saw-whets weigh about as much as a stack of seven half-dollar coins, comparable to an American Robin. And they send out at least 11 different calls. When agitated or threatened, the Saw-whet gives what ornithologists describe as a “decidedly uncanny, high-pitched meow,” [Northern Saw-whet Owl “whine” call]… or “a harsh and startlingly loud, staccato high-pitched bark” [Northern Saw-whet Owl “ksew” call].

Males give toot-toot-toot advertising calls from late January through May. In part, the rate of calling is determined by the nighttime temperature. There’s also a positive correlation between call rate and the amount of old-growth forest near the heart of a bird’s territory. And perhaps to keep other Saw-whets out of a food-rich territory, males may toot more frequently in years when their favorite prey, white-footed mice and deer mice, are plentiful.

So if the toot-toot-tooting gets monotonous, keep listening. You may hear something truly hair raising. [Northern Saw-whet Owl “whine” call].

For BirdNote I'm Mary McCann. 

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Advertising call of the Saw-whet Owl [42199] recorded by G A Keller; Northern Saw-whet Owl 'whine' call [176698] recorded by Sean O'Briean; 'ksew call' and final 'whine call' recored by Scott Weidensaul.
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/Page.aspx?pid=1189
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org    May 2015   Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#             NSWO-04-2015-05-19   NSWO-04

Sights & Sounds

Related topics:

Related field notes:

Home
Shows
Galleries
More