Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)


French: Petite Nyctale German: Sägekauz Spanish: Mochuelo cabezón

Strix acadica

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

Nova Scotia, Canada


Probably closest to A. ridgwayi, and perhaps conspecific, with apparent hybridization where ranges appear to overlap (in S Mexico); further study needed. Proposed race brodkorbi (from Sierra Madre in Oaxaca, Mexico) based on a single juvenile specimen, included in nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. a. acadicus (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – from S Alaska and S British Columbia E across S Canada to Gulf of St Lawrence, S in USA to California, Arizona and New Mexico and, in E, to S Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, in winter extending also to SE Texas and N Florida#R#R; also highlands of Mexico from NE Sonora to C Michoacán, E in C highlands to Puebla, Hidalgo and C Oaxaca, with isolated population in SE Coahuila, SW Nuevo León and N San Luis Potosí.
  • A. a. brooksi (J. H. Fleming, 1916) – Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Is), British Columbia#R.
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 18–20 cm, 70–84 g (breeding); female 20–21·5 cm, 107–156 g (breeding). Small owl with large, rounded head. Head greyish brown, with white... read more


    Male song a monotonous series of whistled “toot” notes on constant pitch, c. 2 per... read more


    Woodland, with highest densities in coniferous forest at moderate elevations and latitudes. Occurs... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small mammals, primarily deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus); house mice (Mus musculus), harvest mice (... read more


    Season Mar–Jul. Monogamous; polygyny can occur when prey and nesting sites are abundant. No evidence of pair-bond lasting more than... read more


    Present year-round in breeding range, but considerable numbers move S in autumn, at least in E... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. World population conservatively estimated at 100,000–300,000 individuals. No data on trends, but probably declining... read more

    Recommended citation

    Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 January 2020).