Tiny but Mighty: Meet the Northern Saw-whet Owl

Birdorable Northern Saw-whet Owl

Today, we're excited to introduce one of the most adorable avian species you're likely to encounter: the Northern Saw-whet Owl. With its big, captivating eyes and small stature, it measures just 7 to 8 inches (17.8 to 20.3 cm), making this the smallest owl in Eastern North America. 

The origins of its unique name stem from a charming mix-up. A member of the National Audubon Society once heard the call of a Barn Owl, which is reminiscent of a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone, and mistakenly thought it was the call of this smaller owl. Thus, the name "Saw-whet Owl" was born.

Since 1997, the Ned Smith Center in Pennsylvania has spearheaded crucial research into the movements and ecology of the Saw-whet Owl. Every autumn, a dedicated team comprising both researchers and volunteers engages in a remarkable project. They gently catch, band, and release hundreds of these owls across three banding stations in central Pennsylvania. This research effort has been incredibly successful; over the years, more than 5,000 owls have been banded, significantly enhancing our understanding of the migration patterns and behaviors of this elusive species.

The findings from this research have been instrumental in shedding light on the secretive life of the Saw-whet Owl, helping to map its movements and contribute to its conservation. To dive deeper into this fascinating project and learn more about these captivating creatures, be sure to visit the Saw-whet Owl Research Blog.

Photo of Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl by Andy Witchger (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Northern saw-whet owl by Kristina Servant (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Cute Saw-whet Owl Gifts


Canaduck on December 7, 2009 at 8:40 PM wrote:
I love Saw-whets! So excited you made a Birdorable!
Birdorable on December 7, 2009 at 8:53 PM wrote:
I'm glad you like it Canaduck. I saw my first Saw-whet Owl at a raptor rehabilitation center this summer and I loved it so much ... it was the cutest thing I'd ever seen. I'd love to see one of these in the wild once! :)
Ashira on December 8, 2009 at 8:51 AM wrote:
How ADORABLE. <3 So many owls! : D
Cat on December 13, 2009 at 8:49 AM wrote:
Thanks! They are so cute, and getting cuter!
NatureFootstep on December 19, 2009 at 3:34 PM wrote:
this owl is very sweet. :)
little bird on October 21, 2010 at 12:56 PM wrote:
Aw, that is the cutest!
Louise Warner on February 23, 2017 at 8:21 AM wrote:
they are Birdorable!!!
Spurwing Plover on May 22, 2022 at 5:44 AM wrote:
I read their name comes from their call which resembles the sharpening of a wet saw on a stone

Leave a comment

Comments with links or HTML will be deleted. Your comment will be published pending approval.
Your email address will not be published

Bare-Faced Beauty: The Unique Appearance of Australian Brushturkeys

Happy Thanksgiving! Today's new species isn't related to today's most famous bird, but the name is similar -- welcome the Australian Brushturkey to Birdorable!Australian Brushturkeys are large, darkly plumaged birds with bare facial and neck skin. In males, the...

9 Awesome Lovebird Facts

The nine species of lovebird in the world all belong to the genus Agapornis, which is Greek for love (agape) bird (ornis). These small and colorful parrots are known for their social affection and strong pair-bonding between lifelong monogamous...

Baby Birdorable: Horned Lark

If you think our Birdorable birds are cute as adults, what about when they are babies? Below are some baby photos (shared via Flickr Creative Commons) of the Horned Lark. Female Horned Larks build the nest alone. A natural depression is found, or a cavity is dug by...

2013 Bonanza Bird #29: Least Bittern

We’re adding new birds each day until we reach our 500th Birdorable species! Today’s Bonanza bird is species #498 overall: the Least Bittern. Least Bitterns are very small herons found in freshwater or brackish wetland-type habitats in the Americas. They are the smallest...