The Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus) is a somewhat mysterious owl of dense northern woodlands. Except when calling at night in very early spring, it is easily overlooked.
It feeds mostly on small mammals: voles and mice, also small squirrels, shews, and pocket gophers. Its diet also includes small birds of various kinds, and insects, especially crickets.
The Boreal Owl hunts mostly at night by moving through forest from one perch to another, watching for prey, then swooping down to take prey in its talons. It can capture prey hidden under snow or dense vegetation because ears are adapted for precise location of sounds.
The Boreal nests mostly in forests where coniferous trees such as spruce are mixed with deciduous trees including aspen or birch. During winter it is usually found in groves of conifers. Nesting begins in late winter or early spring. In courtship, male feeds female. The nest is in a cavity of a tree, usually a woodpecker hole. The Boreal Owl uses a new nest each year. Female remains with young most of the time at first; male brings food, female feeds it to young. After about 3 weeks, female also hunts and brings the food.
Distribution & Habitat
This owl inhabits boreal forest belt, also subalpine mixed conifer-deciduous forests in the high Rockies and mountains of the Northwest. They are sometimes seen in northern Illinois, northern Ohio and New York City. In Alaska, it occurs throughout the forested areas of the Interior, upper Kobuk valley, Kodiak Island, and western Southcentral, including Prince William Sound out to the Alaska Peninsula as far as King Salmon. Its habitat is mixed and conifer forests, muskeg.
The Boreal Owl is protected by the state of Alaska and federal laws. Agriculture and logging are impacts on the owl, although mitigation might be possible. The owls are fairly tolerant of disturbance and have been found existing within housing developments, provided the natural character of the boreal forest is retained.