© STEVE HENDRICKS
BOREAL OWL FACTS:
A small brown owl with white spotting and barring
Males: head and back brown with white spots, underside white with brown barring; tail brown with three rows of white spots; legs and toes thickly feathered, eyes and beak yellow
Females: same as male
Young: chocolate brown chest and belly, less white spotting on back, less white on face.
OTHER NAMES: Tengmalm’s Owl, Richardson’s Owl
CLOSEST RELATIVE: Northern Saw-whet Owl
BOREAL OWL SIZE:
Height: Males 21-25 cm (8-10 in), Females 25-28 cm (10-11 in)
Weight: Males 90-115g (3-4 oz), Females 120-195 g (4-7 oz)
Wingspan Both: 55-62 cm (22-25 in)
BOREAL OWL RANGE:
A northern owl; interior Alaska, Canada, U.S. Rocky Mountains, south to New Mexico; also northern Europe and Asia
BOREAL OWL HABITAT:
Boreal forests, muskeg, subalpine forests
BOREAL OWL DIET:
Mostly small mammals like voles and shrews; occasionally birds, larger mammals, and insects
BOREAL OWL VOICE:
A rapid series “hoo”s
Males: during breeding season, a series of short trills, increasing in volume over time (song may last 20 minutes or up to 3 hours!)
Females: song similar to male, but sung very infrequently; also gives aggressive “kwahk” and a mewing call
BOREAL OWL NESTING:
Nest Site: nests in tree cavities, mostly made by Pileated Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers, will also use nest boxes where available
Eggs: usually 3-6 eggs, though occasionally up to 11; multiple clutches laid in good vole years
Incubation: 29 days
BOREAL OWL HUNTING HABITS:
Perch and pounce hunter, generally active after dark.
BOREAL OWL CONSERVATION STATUS:
Not globally threatened; designated a “sensitive species” in some parts of U.S.
BOREAL OWL RESEARCH:
See RESEARCH for The Owl Research Institute's study on Boreal Owls.
BOREAL OWL DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH AMERICA
Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Whoo is that hiding in the deep, dark forests of the North? It’s the Boreal Owl of course!
The word “boreal” means northern, and way up North is where this little guy feels most at home. These smallish owls are circumpolar, found in boreal and subalpine forests around the world, with scattered populations spreading south into mountain ranges like the Rockies.
Boreal Owls are secretive, spending their winters hidden away in mature forests, hunting by night and roosting by day, usually well camouflaged in dense cover. This elusive little owl even has the scientists who study them scratching their heads while learning more about them. How many are there?
Boreal Owl Nest Box Info
For nest box plans and more information, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project NestWatch website: