Published on September 9, 2021

Welcome Our New Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl at Drumlin Farm

Our Wildlife Care Team just gained a new member—a northern saw-whet owl!

The veterinarians at the New England Wildlife Center reached out to Drumlin Farm staff after radiographs determined the injured owl had a poorly healed broken coracoid (collarbone), which prevents it from flying properly, and thus deemed it non-releasable.

Wildlife Care Technician Ellen says, “We are very excited to add the smallest species of owl in New England to our collection; our saw-whet weighs only 100g, roughly the same as a blue jay. We’re beginning the process of training it to go on programs so that one day this tiny bird can act as an animal ambassador, educating the people of Massachusetts about their species. Right now it’s calm while we’re around but a little jumpy when we’re cleaning its enclosure; we hope more acclimation should help with that. As seen by its chocolate and cinnamon coloration, we know this bird is a juvenile, meaning it hatched this year. Since saw-whets can live into their teens, we hope to have this bird with us for a long time."

All About Birds describes the diet of saw-whets in the wild as varied and can consist of: shrews, mice, voles, bats, baby chipmunks, and squirrels. During migration, they will prey on small birds such as chickadees, titmice, kinglets, and juncos. But that is not all: they will also eat grasshoppers, moths, and beetles. Saw-whets who live along the coast will also consume intertidal invertebrates such as amphipods and isopods. 

Several Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries collaborate with Project Owlnet—a network of Saw-whet Owl banding stations throughout the United States and Canada—to advance our scientific understanding of these elusive owls.

For more on owls in Massachusetts, check out our guide.