• Barn Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
    Eastern Screech
  • Elf Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
    Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Great Grey Owl
    Great Grey
  • Great Horned Owl
    Great Horned
  • Long Eared Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Northern Hawk
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
    Northern Pygmy
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
    Northern Saw-whet
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
    Western Screech
  • Western Screech Owl
    Whiskered Screech Owl

BOREAL OWL (Aegolius funereus)

Boreal OwlWhoo is that hiding in the deep, dark forests of the North? It’s the Boreal Owl of course! The word “boreal” means northern, and way up North is where this little guy feels most at home. These smallish owls are circumpolar, found in boreal and subalpine forests around the world, with scattered populations spreading south into mountain ranges like the Rockies.  Boreal Owls are secretive, spending their winters hidden away in mature forests, hunting by night and roosting by day, usually well camouflaged in dense cover. This elusive little owl even has the scientists who study them scratching their heads while learning more about them. How many are there?

Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

  • A small brown owl with white spotting and barring

    Males: head and back brown with white spots, underside white with brown barring; tail brown with three rows of white spots;
    legs and toes thickly feathered, eyes and beak yellow

    Females: same as male

    Young: chocolate brown chest and belly, less white spotting on back, less white on face

  • Height: Males 21-25 cm (8-10 in), Females 25-28 cm (10-11 in)

    Weight: Males 90-115g (3-4 oz), Females 120-195 g (4-7 oz)

    Wingspan Both: 55-62 cm (22-25 in)

  • Range: a northern owl; interior Alaska, Canada, U.S. Rocky Mountains, south to Colorado; also northern Europe and Asia

    Habitat: boreal forests, muskeg, subalpine forests

  • Mostly small mammals like voles and shrews; occassionaly birds, larger mammals, and insects
  • A rapid series “hoo”s

    Males: during breeding season, a series of short trills, increasing in volume over time (song may last 20 minutes or up to 3 hours!)

    Females: song similar to male, but sung very infrequently; also gives aggressive “kwahk”  and a mewing call

  • Nest Site: nests in tree cavities, mostly made by Pileated Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers, will also use nest boxes where available

    Eggs: usually 3-6 eggs, though occasionally up to 11; multiple clutches laid in good vole years

    Incubation: 29 days

Boreal Owl Range Map

Boreal Owl Range Map

Boreal Owl Audio

Boreal Owl Facts

Other Names: Tengmalm’s Owl, Richardson’s Owl
Family: Strigidae
Closest Relative: Northern Saw-whet Owl

Conservation Status (copy)

Not globally threatened; designated a “sensitive species” in some parts of U.S.


Learn more about ORI's research on this species.