Find the Owls – Answers!

Erik Bruhnke|

Here is the same photo that was posted earlier this morning… this time with both owls pointed out. The small, brown Northern Saw-whet Owl is tucked away on the left side of the picture, whereas the Boreal Owl is sleeping away on the right. Kudos to everyone that spotted these owls. I am thankful and very privileged to live in such a beautiful part of the northwoods that owls regularly inhibit. People sometimes ask me how I come across owls on a regular basis; a good portion of the “luck” of finding owls is simply living in an area where owls tend to be found in greater numbers, but there is more to observing owls than that.

Much of the trick for looking for owls (with success) is knowing some history and unique traits about each owl species. Certain owl species (like Boreal Owls) tend to perch along the length of branches, whereas Northern Saw-whet Owls tend to perch closer to the trunk. Some owls are diurnal (awake during the daytime) like the Northern Hawk-Owl, whereas some are crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) like the Great Gray Owl. Many owls are nocturnal, like the Barred Owl. Each owl needs a certain type of habitat, or blend of habitats, in order to call the area its home.

Part of the experience of looking for owls is connecting with these birds on a special level, even before looking for them.  With some persistence, some knowledge about the owls, and always giving the owls their space, your experience of enjoying owls will produce many wonderful memories. Every owl that I have encountered on my own as well as while leading birding trips, have been treated with the bird’s well-being and the respect for their comfort zones being the #1 priority of the owl-viewing experience. The views of owls have been breathtaking! Cheers!

Northern Saw-whet Owl and Boreal Owl


About the Author

Erik Bruhnke

Erik has been interested in birds since he picked up his first pair of binoculars as a kid. He has taught several courses of field ornithology at Northland College, conducted cavity-nesting surveys along the Pacific Coast and Cascade Mountains throughout western Oregon, chicken/grouse surveys as well as breeding bird transects throughout the vast & beautiful expanses of central North Dakota, and bushwhacked through the bogs and mixed woods of northern Wisconsin & northern Minnesota while conducting avian point counts. Throughout the past five fall seasons, Erik has been the count interpreter (hawk pointer-outer-guy) at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. He recently joined the board of directors for the Duluth Audubon Society, and leads seasonal bird hikes as well as bird presentations via this local Audubon chapter. Through several years of taking bird pictures, Erik has created his own bird ID workshops that he offers to the public, with the Duluth Audubon Society, local nature-based organizations, and coming-soon at nation-wide birding festivals. Erik currently runs his own birding tour business out of Duluth. His year-round trips are available upon request at http://www.naturallyavian.com. Erik loves all birds, however he gets his bird-nerd on especially with the gulls, owls and diurnal raptors.

  • Wayne Laubscher

    Of the roughly twelve Boreal Owls I have seen in Ontario since 1996, approximately 75% of them were perching against or nearly against a tree trunk. Of the 15 or so Saw-whets I have seen there in the same period, most of them have been perched farther out on a branch away from the trunk. My observations, in Ontario at least, suggest Boreal Owls may have a slight preference for perching against a trunk, and Saw-whet Owls prefer perching away from the trunk. I have also heard this same opinion from some of the local birders there. So, is there really a perching preference between these two species?