College of Veterinary Medicine |

Healthy Animals, Healthy People, Healthy Planet


Cuare is a female Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus). She came to us in January 2005 from Oaksdale, Washington after sustaining a wing injury caused by a cat.  She had muscle and nerve damage and cannot extend her right wing. For a while, we were under the assumption that Cuare was a male because she is so small. However, after a DNA test, it was discovered that she is, in fact, female. Cuare came to us as an adult and because of that, we are unsure of her age.
Saw-whet Owls are the 5th smallest owls in North America. The 4 species that are smaller are the Northern Pygmy Owl (Glauciduim gnoma), Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum), Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) and Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi). The name of the Northern Saw-whet Owl is derived from the sound of their voice which resembles "whetting" which is the sharpening of a saw. Saw-whet Owls have brown plumage and light colored facial disks. They do not have ear tufts and are very round in appearance. They also have feathering down to their toes which helps keep them warm in cooler climates. Juvenile Saw-whet Owls have dark feathering on their wings and head and orange-colored chests, with the prominent white “v” between their eyes. They retain this juvenile coloring until they are 1 year old. 
The white “v” can be seen on adult Saw-Whet Owls, but is accompanied by a predominately white facial disk. These little owls are prey for larger owls, and it is thought that the faint white “v” on the back of their head may help to fool their enemies. Predators avoid having their prey face them, and by having a “v” in front and behind them, a Saw-whet Owl may look like it has eyes on the back and front of its head! The idea is similar to butterflies that have patterns on their wings which look like eyes.
Saw-whet Owls live in coniferous forests and prefer to nest in woodpecker nesting cavities. They are nocturnal and hunt insects, small rodents and occasionally bats and birds. They will also catch and kill more prey than they can eat at once and cache it. Saw-whet Owls can hunt by sound location only. 

Washington State University