Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl

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Boreal owls are small owls with large, rectangular heads and long wings. Like most owls, they have an obvious light colored facial disc. The head is covered in brown and black mottled feathers, and their bill is whitish-yellow. The under parts are white, while the back and wings are predominantly dark brown with lighter spots. The legs are covered in white feathers to the talons.


Individuals are solitary, active almost exclusively at night, as well as periodically at dawn and dusk. They are considered migratory, as some populations make small-scale movements seasonally, but are primarily sedentary.

Food Habits

Boreal owls are carnivorous. They feed primarily on small mammals such as voles, mice and squirrels.  Like other birds of prey, boreal owls regurgitate a small pellet containing undigested bones and hair after they eat.


In Alaska, boreal owls start advertising calls in late January or early February and continue until late April. Like most owls, the boreal owl does not construct a nest. The female will lay her eggs in old woodpecker nest cavities in trees. Three to seven eggs are laid in April or May depending on the abundance of food. The female incubates the eggs for 25 to 32 days. If food is scarce, then often only the first born, and therefore larger, chicks survive. The young will fledge from the nest 28 to 36 days later and become independent after five or six weeks.

Population Status, Threats & Conservation

The only real impact made by humans on the species is destruction of habitat by harvesting trees for lumber. Nest boxes are sometimes placed on trees to provide nest sites. This species is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Web
Alaska Department of Fish and Game