A good winter activity to get me out on the trails is searching for Northern Saw Whet Owls wintering here in Southeast Michigan. Seamingly aligned with the first snow fall these cute little owls begin to be spotted after leaving their Northern breeding territory and heading South
Length: 8″ ave.
Wing Span: 17″ ave.
Weight: 2.8 oz. ave.
Source – Cascade Raptor Center
This December I’ve had success finding one in habitat that they have been located in years past. On two ocassions I spotted one on the top side of a canopied bushy tree, it was well tucked in. A few photo’s & the search went on for others. Second trip out, one was found in a different tree about 30 yards from the first spot, it was also near the top of bushy tree and well tucked in. They like this habitat as well as Pine trees.
The Northern Saw Whet Owl is considered to be not skittish, on both spottings the owl did not move from it’s perch.
On my most recent trip out with a friend, we checked the previous two locations without seeing one, moving on down further into the habitat I checked out this next low bushy tree for a possible owl, I needed to duck to go under the low hanging branches and snarls of grapevine. As I made it past, then looking back, I watched my friend duck his head to make it through the snarls. To my surprise & unbeknownst to him, this awesome owl flushed from that area we both had just been through and flew right past me. First time I have witnessed a Saw Whet flush. I would have stayed my distance if I had seen it befofre heading through. So fortunate for us the cute owl landed on a close & wide open perch. We were elated to snap some pictures of this fantasic photo op.
My friend tripped as we were leaving, this flushed the owl back into deeper habitat.
We hiked & checked more of the area without finding another, then a quick check back to where we last seen this owl. I was surprised to find it not there in the spot we last seen it, it had moved again. We headed out.
With the preoccupied excitment of taking photos neither of us realized that the Owl had a meal in clutch the entire time.
Here’s some information on their diet.
“The saw-whet owl’s diet consists mainly of small mammals, primarily deer mice, and to a lesser extent, other types of mice, voles, shrews, squirrels, chipmunks and bats. Occasionally, they will eat small birds such as sparrows, swallows, wrens, chickadees, and kinglets; and sometimes even larger birds like the Northern cardinal, rock dove and the pygmy owl. Insects like grasshoppers and beetles can also occasionally find a way into the saw-whet owl’s diet. n a single sitting, they will typically eat only half of a prey item and swallow it whole, saving the other half to eat later.”
Source – NORTHWEST WILDLIFE PRESERVATION SOCIETY
Got cabin fever? This is a great time to get out for a hike in the woods, you never know what you’ll come across!