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Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl
Photo Information
Copyright: Denis Doucet (Sawwhet) Silver Note Writer [C: 8 W: 0 N: 92] (409)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 1991-11-08
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon FM2, Nikkor AF-ED 300mm f/4, Kodachrome 200
Exposure: f/8, 1/125 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2011-10-05 15:30
Viewed: 4115
Points: 24
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
In this short story accompanying today's image, I’d like to talk to you about the Northern Saw-whet Owl, a little owl that is truly one of the most fascinating denizens of the forests here Eastern North America. Did you know that it was the discovery of a “brand-new” species of owl back in the late 1700s (around 1788) in Nova Scotia that actually prompted German naturalist Johann Gmelin to scientifically name the Northern Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus, after the region in which it was first found, that is Acadia or “Acadie”? I must say, and maybe I’m biased here, but if ever Acadians such as myself (or Cajuns, our close cousins in Louisiana and elsewhere) were looking for a mascot bird, I sure think the Saw-whet would be a most appropriate choice. On a more personal level, it also happens to be my favourite bird, bar none, given its interesting natural history.

In any case, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is actually Eastern North America’s smallest owl, averaging about 18 cm in length or about the height of my hand. In fact, it is similar in size and also weighs about as much as an American Robin. While this particular individual was photographed in Québec, in New Brunswick Northern Saw-whets appear to be particularly fond of relatively open cedar/tamarack swamps and riparian (riverside) forests that harbour lots of spruce and poplar trees. It typically nests in holes that were previously excavated in trees by New Brunswick two largest woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker and the Pileated Woodpecker. These cavities are at least 2 and a half inches (6 and a quarter centimetres) in diameter.

Northern Saw-whet Owls can be heard year-round emitting a high-pitched, monotonous whistle which sounds to me like one of the lower notes on a penny whistle repeated continuously, sometimes for hours at a time, especially in April and May of the year. Its name Saw-whet apparently comes from another one of its vocalizations which reminded someone of a saw blade being whetted or sharpened. The only other sound I have heard a saw-whet make is truly hair-raising, sounding to me like a hare or other wild animal being throttled…

Northern Saw-whet owls are superb mousers. In some regions, they thrive almost exclusively on a steady diet of Deer mice or White-footed mice (genus Peromyscus). However, they have also been known to feed on a wide variety of other prey including large moths, Blue Jays and even pigeons!

Although some of our saw-whets actually can remain on territory throughout the year, it would appear that most individuals in New Brunswick probably move a bit further south most years to avoid the deep snows we are prone to receiving. Given the Saw-whet’s small size, a thick snow cover can make hunting and therefore life very difficult for them and saw-whets have been known to starve shortly after snowstorms or long, heavy winters. The birds going south do so from about mid-October to late November. At this time, saw-whets can typically be found hiding in dense thickets during the day. I should mention that these birds are also particularly vulnerable to disturbance, and continued disturbance during their resting time during the day can deplete the extra reserves they have in order to complete their migration…

In closing, I sure hope you enjoyed this little story and it gave you a few hints that will enable you to get to see and hear one of these marvellous little feathered dynamites. I can promise you it will be a sight you will not soon forget!

***Image saved to Photo CD from a scanned Kodachrome 200 slide , fall 1998

drchoneydew, Mariol, PeakXV, Tina, PeterZ, dmark11, Pitoncle has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To Pitoncle: Merci GérardSawwhet 1 10-08 14:23
To Mariol: Thank you very much Mario!Sawwhet 1 10-06 16:28
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Critiques [Translate]

and DYNAMITE THIS LIL GUY IS!! What a capture, truly enjoyed this along with a magnificent pic!

Hi Denis,

This is one of the best Saw-whet Owl pictures on the net. Your story shows knowledge, passion and dedication.
There are very few real birders and good photographer on TN and for sure you are one of them. TFS


Hi Denis,

Excellent picture of this beautiful OWL with good details & great eye contact.
Taken from a good POV & great sharpness here. Nice colors too.
Well done & TFS.

  • Great 
  • PeakXV Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 121 W: 0 N: 544] (3135)
  • [2011-10-05 19:22]

Hi Denis,

Fantastic natural composition of this beautiful owl. Lovely light shows the true & pure colors of it's plumage. Perfect POV & impressive sharpness. Superb!



What a cute wee fellow. Very nice photography :)

Beautiful bird and beautiful story Denis! Beautiful photo too!!

Wow ... an impressive and unique image taken with the legendary film camera as far as I know It's a great backup camera. Light in weight, small in size, and capable of working without battery power, the FM2n is a reliable, handy choice for that camera body emergency that always seems to happen when you're a long way from civilization,Denis and despite the obvious noise level presented in the image I wouldn't bother cleaning it with a noise reduction software, simply because I feel that the magic will be swept away with it. Impeccable shot of this Northern Saw-whet Owl, Denis! Good use of tripod I think in this case here. Very pleasant colors and fine simplicity! Bravo!
George Veltchev

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2011-10-06 0:22]

Hello Denis,
What a surpise! I ask for a Saw-whet Owl and here you are! Fantastic photo of this little beauty. Beautiful colours and impressive sharpness. Great details. Very nice point of view and blurred background.

beautiful owl, TFS Ori

GReat shot and cool nice note, I bet it looks even better on slide or print


hello Denis
this is a very nice composition with good details and beautiful colours
thanks greeting lou

Hi Denis,
Yesterday or so I saw a comment on one of your pictures, by Peter I think, it said something like "where is a Saw-whet owl name-sake?" and miraculously here it is. Wonderful image of this beutiful owl. Love those wonderful eyes. Excellant.

Bonjour Denis,
Agréable valorisation du sujet sous une belle lumière, mais la différence de netteté entre la tête et le corps du sujet m'interpelle.
A bientôt sur TN pour de nouvelles aventures.

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