The Northern Saw-Whet Owl


Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Teddy began his life in Old Saybrook, CT where it is suspected that he injured his wing when he collided with a window. His wing injury was so severe that he was not able to be released back into the wild. The Wind Over Wings rehabilitation program was housed then in CT but was due to re-locate, along with Teddy, to mid-coast Maine.

The average life span of a Northern Saw-Whet Owl is 7 or 8 years so it surprised folks that Teddy lived a full 15 years. Eventually, Teddy lost his sight. How sad, a raptor with no eyesight cannot hunt. He had to be moved indoors from the flight cage to avoid the harsh Maine winters.

But Teddy’s life was not without purpose. As part of the program at Wind Over Wings, Teddy participated in weddings, blessings of the animals, bar mitzvahs, memorials and funerals.

But Director, Hope Douglas, saw Teddy’s new purpose when she and Teddy were invited to attend the memorial service of a young child who had been killed in an accident. She describes it like this:

“I sat next to the child’s mother during the service while she held Teddy in her hands. For over an hour, this little bird looked into her eyes. I realized that these birds are also here to get us through difficult times.”

In an ideal world, Teddy belonged to the world but with his injuries and loss of sight, Teddy found his place at Winds Over Wings.


The Saw Whet owl got its name from their “skiew” call that it sounds when the owl is alarmed. It sounded like the sound a saw made when it was being sharpened by a whetstone. Now, people describe it as sounds like the noise made by a construction vehicle backing up.


  • Northern Saw-Whet owls are quite tiny, only 7-9 inches and length and barely 5 inches tall. These round little gnome-like critters are not even as big as a Robin.
  • The Northern Saw-Whet owl is small and short-bodied. The head is large and round with no ear tufts. The face is light brown and is bordered in dark brown and white streaks with brown and white bellies.
  • They have large yellow eyes. Their eyebrows connect in a Y pattern over their beaks.
  • They are difficult to find due to their size and the fact that they are strictly nocturnal.
  • The male Saw-Whet chooses and defends territories while it is the female who chooses a nest cavity…usually an old nest hole made by a woodpecker.
  • The Northern Saw-Whet owl has excellent low-light vision and easily finds its prey by night.
  • Opportunistic predators, they can locate their prey at night with great precision. Their ears are vertically asymmetrical and there are no ear tufts.
  • The way the owl defends itself from being discovered is to sit still and not fly.
  • People often view the Northern Saw-Whet owl is being “tame”.
  • The Northern Saw-Whet owl is mentioned in a song by the Grateful Dead in their 7th album,From the Mars Hotel.
  • The Northern Saw-Whet owl is believed to the cutest owl in the universe.


  • Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus
  • They are denizens of coniferous forests and groves which are plentiful at Acadia National Park.
  • Wingspan: 28 inches
  • Weight: 3 ounces
  • Food of Choice: Deer mice, shrews, voles, young squirrels, small birds and large insects. This tiny bird is voracious in appetite and can eat 2 mice in one day.
  • It is the female owl that does the incubation and brooding. The male brings all of the food to the female while she is incubating. She leaves the nest for one or two shorts trips daily to defecate and cough up at pellet. (BirdWeb)
  • The incubation period is 21-28 days. The young are able to leave the nest after 4 or 5 weeks individually for a day or two until all of them have left.
  • Even after they leave the nest, they are cared for by their parents for some time.