BOREAL OWL

Aegolius funereus

© 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 


FAMILY: Strigidae


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

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Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Boreal Owl - Denver Holt
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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 

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?