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Boreal owl

Aegolius funereus

Photo: Boreal owl
Also known as
  • Sýc rousňák
Weights and measures
Length 25 cm
Weight from 90 to 200 g
Wingspan from 55 to 56 cm
State of endangerment
Animal description
The Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus), also known as Tengmalm's Owl in some regions, is a small yet captivating bird of prey belonging to the Strigidae family. This elusive nocturnal owl is native to the boreal forests across North America, Europe, and Asia, making its home in dense, coniferous woodlands that offer both seclusion and ample hunting grounds. The Boreal Owl's habitat is characterized by its preference for cold, northern environments, hence its name, which is derived from Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind.

Physical Description:
The Boreal Owl is a compact bird, measuring approximately 22 to 27.5 cm (8.7 to 10.8 inches) in length, with a wingspan ranging from 50 to 62 cm (19.7 to 24.4 inches). Despite its small size, it possesses a robust and rounded body, a large head with no ear tufts, and a relatively short tail. Its plumage is predominantly mottled brown, providing excellent camouflage against the bark of trees, with white spots on the wings and upper parts, and a whitish or light brown underbelly adorned with dark streaks and spots. The facial disc is distinct, framed with darker feathers, and features striking yellow eyes that pierce the night, aiding in its nocturnal hunts.

Behavior and Ecology:
Boreal Owls lead a secretive life, primarily active during the night when they hunt for prey. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, such as voles and mice, though they may also consume birds, insects, and other small creatures. These owls are adept hunters, relying on their acute hearing and silent flight to locate and swoop down on unsuspecting prey.

During the breeding season, which begins in late winter and extends into spring, Boreal Owls become more vocal. Males perform a series of deep, rhythmic hoots to attract females and defend their territory. Nests are typically located in natural cavities in trees, often those created by woodpeckers, or sometimes in nest boxes provided by conservationists. The female lays a clutch of 3 to 6 white eggs, which she incubates for about 3 to 4 weeks while being provisioned by the male. Once hatched, the owlets grow rapidly and are ready to fledge in about a month, though they remain dependent on their parents for several more weeks.

Conservation Status:
The Boreal Owl is considered to be of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), indicating that it is not currently at immediate risk of widespread decline. However, like many forest-dwelling species, it faces threats from habitat loss and fragmentation, primarily due to logging and the conversion of forests for agricultural use. Climate change also poses a long-term threat by altering the distribution and composition of boreal forests. Conservation efforts are focused on preserving large tracts of suitable forest habitat and monitoring population trends to ensure this enigmatic owl continues to thrive in its northern realm.

In summary, the Boreal Owl is a fascinating and important part of the boreal forest ecosystem. Its presence indicates a healthy, intact forest environment. Despite its elusive nature, ongoing research and conservation efforts aim to shed light on the life of this mysterious owl, ensuring its survival for generations to come.
Map of occurrence
Photo: Boreal owl - occurrence
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