A Northern Saw-Whet Owl in Toronto’s Milliken Park
Bob and I went for a walk one afternoon in Milliken Park, here in Toronto, Ontario, and by chance, we spotted a Northern Saw-Whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) at rest in the thick brush. I had never seen an owl in the wild before, and certainly not one in such close proximity. We have frequented this park for years, and this was the first time we were lucky enough to catch sight of an owl.
Although this little specimen of an owl sat quietly at rest on his daytime roost, I have, in the past, heard a Northern Saw-Whet Owl when walking in the woods with my dad. This Owl has a round, light, white face with brown and cream streaks; they also have a dark beak and yellow eyes.
Northern Saw-Whet owls are very tiny owls, measuring between 6-9 inches in height. Perched amongst similarly colored branches, this one was almost invisible to the untrained eye.
I had inadvertently startled the little owl from a neighboring perch, and it flew and landed right in front of Bob. He was quick to draw my attention to it, and fortunately we had our camera with us. I was absolutely thrilled at the chance to observe this cute little owl at very close range. The owl was totally at ease with our picture taking.
I had the Northern Saw-Whet Owl eating out of the palm of my hand…NOT!
Northern Saw-Whet owls mainly eat mice and rodents. The sharp claws are indispensable when catching them.
As we observed the owl, a dog passed by in the near distance catching the attention of the owl. It was on high alert!
We watched the owl for at least 45 minutes, and all the while, it was blinking and nodding as if close to sleep. He was securely positioned on the tree branch, thanks to his sharp talons.
As I said, the owl was in no way disturbed by our presence, so I carefully moved behind it in order to get a look at the feathers on its wings and back.
These owls are strictly nocturnal, with activity beginning at late dusk. It was 4 p.m. when we happened to locate this owl, and it was occupied with resting before it set out to hunt in the dark. When threatened, a Saw-whet Owl will elongate its body in order to appear like a tree branch or bump.
Curious as to how long the Northern Saw-Whet owl would remain on its perch, we returned to the park just before dusk, and it was still taking its ease exactly where we had left it 2 hours earlier.
Just before we headed for home, the little owl came to life. With eyes wide open, it appeared to us that it was now time for the hunt. What an absolute pleasure to have witnessed such a strikingly beautiful bird.
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