Two little wee owls

Most of us are accustomed to think of owls as large birds, hunting in the fields or the forest.
But there are little ones, too, and some are very small, indeed.
The first one is the Boreal Owl, which is just about the same size as a robin. It doesn’t have any ear tufts, so it shouldn’t be confused with another small owl, the Screech Owl.
Its back parts are dark, chocolate brown, spotted with white. The upper parts of its head are really heavily-spotted with white while the breast and tummy are mostly white, with blotchy streaks of brown.
Its face is sort of oval in shape, and has a black or brown border.
This little owl is not very common. It much prefers to live in the really dense forest. It hunts only at night, and usually snuggles up to a tree trunk all during the day.
In the winter, it sometimes wanders into settled areas, where it may roost in buildings, thickets, and trees—and even barns or haystacks.
This little owl can be found all across northern North America, from Alaska eastwards. It also lives in the boreal forests of Europe and Asia.
In the winter, like quite a few other northern birds, these ones drift south (in our case, into the northern states).
The Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus) has a most monotonous call—a fast hoo-hoo-hoo—, with a metallic ring to it.
The other little tiny owl is the Saw-whet Owl. This is the smallest eastern owl we have—even smaller that the Boreal one.
It is about 20 cm (eight inches), a little smaller than a starling.
Its back is reddish brown and its head has white streaks, not spots. Its underparts are again white, but this time with fairly wide reddish-brown streaks.
Its face is reddish, with the outside ring sort of buffy. Eyes are yellow but the beak is black.
This is another bird which is fond of the deep woods, mostly coniferous but also thick alder and cedar swamps.
Why the name? Well, one of its “songs” is a prolonged sound which reminds people of the filing of a saw. Folks used to call this “whetting.”
It also has a monotonous, single-note metallic whistle, which it delivers endlessly.
If you come across this little owl, you will find him very tame, indeed. You can walk up to within two or three feet of this little bird before he moves lazily away.
The Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadecus) is another tiny edition of our predators—and another one with a very monotonous voice.
These two owls live mainly on mice, but they also will eat other little mammals, insects, and some small birds. They do all their hunting at night.
In the daytime, they usually hide in the densest part of the tree and stay quiet until dark.
Believe it or not, these are not the smallest owls in Canada. There is another one, the Pygmy Owl, but it is a British Columbia bird.
It is about the size of our common White-throated Sparrow.
Look for our two little owls in the winter, and in the densest part of the woods. They may come into the civilized parts of our world, but not very often.
You usually see them only by chance.

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