Tag Archive | northern saw-whet owl

Wednesday Wings: Northern Saw-whet Owl

Blog readers Elizabeth Sargent and Greg Earle sent us some absolutely stunning Northern Saw-whet Owl pictures that Greg took in Carburn Park. They visited on March 31, and were lucky enough to find this little guy at breast height in a thicket of bushes near the river. We’ve had a lot of great saw-whet owl photos on the blog in recent months, but these are just spectacular! Click to enlarge.

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Saw-whet Owl and Pellet

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

By now most birders in Calgary have heard about the Northern Saw-whet Owl that was found in Carburn Park last Thursday.  Phil Smith was there when it was found, and he captured an amazing sequence of pictures that show the owl coughing up a pellet.

Owls and many other birds regularly regurgitate pellets, which consist of the indigestible parts of the food they eat.  Saw-whet owls eat a lot of Deer Mice, and their pellets contain mostly bones and fur.

Although these owls are thought to produce one pellet per day, it is a rare sight to see, and even rarer to photograph.   The pictures have been assembled into a short video.

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Below is the complete sequence of photos showing the owl coughing up the pellet.  (Photos by Phil Smith, used by permission.)

To see more of Phil Smith’s photos, see his Flickr Page.

Anne Elliott also captured a photo of the pellet being produced:

To see more of Anne Elliott’s photos, see her Flickr Page.

Here’s Looking at You-Whoo!

As 2011 began, the Northern Saw-whet Owl was right at the top of my list of Birds I Must See.  I had heard them singing in the spring before in both the Weaselhead area and in Bowness, but I had never seen one.  They are very small, about eight inches (20 cm) high, and active at night.  They spend the daytime roosting in tree cavities or dense conifers.  So although they are quite common, they are rarely seen.

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On Saturday, March 19, the Friends of Fish Creek Park Society outing was at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, where we were looking for returning gulls and waterfowl.  Before starting, the leader, Gus Yaki, mentioned that a Northern Saw-whet Owl had been reported a few days previously at the sanctuary.  We would look for this little bird near the end of our walk, in the row of spruce trees that run north from Walker House. 

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However, as we turned north by the lagoon, I noticed a pair of Black-capped Chickadees that seemed quite agitated.  Two of us hung back to investigate as the rest of the group went ahead.  After a couple of minutes a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches arrived, and then a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches and another pair of chickadees.  All the birds were noisy, flicking their tails, and making short sweeping flights into the tree.  I have seen birds behave like this before – they are trying to drive away a predator.  Still, despite circling the tree a couple of times, I could see nothing.  Finally, from a spot right under the tree branches, I found the owl:

Then he found me back:

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These owls sit still when confronted, and this one barely moved, except for batting his eyes, as you can see in the video.

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Good Birding!

Bob Lefebvre