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Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus)

Boreal Owl


  • The boreal or Richardson's owl is about 25 centimetres (10 inches) long.


  • The upper parts are grey-brown with white spots on the forehead, crown and the area around the facial disk.
    • Larger spots are on the hind neck and wings, and the tail is barred.
    • A distinctive brown bar separates the head from the breast.
    • The breast is white with streaks and blotches of brown.
  • Upon returning from their wintering areas in the northern states, boreal owls take up residence in the coniferous forests of the northern hemisphere.
  • In Alberta, they breed in all natural regions except the grassland region and the alpine sub-region.
Natural History


  • Main diet consists of bats, mice and other small animals.

When Active

  • Being a nocturnal hunter, it usually sits motionless in the branches of trees and bushes during the day.
  • Like many owls that hunt at night, it becomes very lethargic in daylight and may be approached quite closely for observation.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • Using old woodpecker nests and empty tree cavities, the owls lay four to six eggs.
Conservation and Management


The boreal owl is classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management

  • Like all birds of prey in Alberta, the boreal owl is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act.
Similar species
  • Saw-whet Owl

    The boreal is similar to the saw-whet owl but is larger in size and has spots instead of streaks on the forehead.
Related links


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014