Boreal Owl

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Boreal Owl
Amherst Island, Ontario, Canada
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Aegolius
Species: A. funereus
Binomial name
Aegolius funereus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

7, see text


Nyctala tengmalmi
Cryptoglaux tengmalmi
Glaux funerea

The Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus) is a small owl. It is also known as Tengmalm's Owl after Swedish naturalist Peter Gustaf Tengmalm or Richardson's Owl after Sir John Richardson.[2][3] This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The other grouping is the barn owls, Tytonidae.


Juvenile at Innsbruck Zoo

The Boreal Owl is 22–27 cm (8.7–10.6 in) long with a 50–62 cm (20–24 in) wingspan. It is brown above, with white flecking on the shoulders. Below it is whitish streaked rust color. The head is large, with yellow eyes and a white facial disc, and a "surprised" appearance. The beak is light yellow colored rather than dark like its relative the Northern Saw-whet Owl.[4] The flight is strong and direct. Young birds are chocolate brown.


The Boreal Owl is an unsociable nocturnal owl.[5] Its call is similar in sound to the "winnowing" of the North American Wilson's Snipe.[6][7]

This species is not normally migratory, but in some autumns significant numbers move further south. It is rarely any great distance south of its breeding range, although this is partly due to the problems of detecting this nocturnal owl outside the breeding season when it is not calling.


The Boreal Owl breeds in dense coniferous forests across northern North America and Eurasia, and in mountain ranges such as the Alps and the Rockies. It lays 3–6 eggs in a tree hole. Across much of Europe, and to a lesser extent in Asia and North America, naturalists and biologists put up nest boxes for these and other small owls.

Feeding and diet[edit]

This smallish owl eats mainly voles and other mammals but also birds as well as insects and other invertebrates. It is largely nocturnal, though in the northern most parts of its range, it is forced to hunt during daylight because of the very short nights in summer.


Banded Boreal owls have been known to live up to 16 years. Due to the owl's small stature it is often preyed upon by other owls and large raptors thus decreasing its average life span.


Boreal owls have seven subspecies:

  • A.f. richardsoni, the North American subspecies which lives from Alaska down the Rocky Mountains and as far East as Southeastern Canada and the American Northeast
  • A.f funereus, which lives in Scandinavia down South to the Pyrenees and East to the Urals, but not the Caucascus mountains
  • A.f. pallens, which lives in southeastern Siberia to Tien Shan in China
  • A.f. caucasicus, which lives in the Caucascus mountains
  • A.f. magnus, which lives in Eastern Siberia from Kolyma to the Kamchtka peninsula
  • A.f. beickianus, which lives from Northwest India to western China
  • A.f. sibiricus, which is widespread over Siberia


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Aegolius funereus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Aegolius funereus on Avibase
  3. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael (2003). Whose bird? : Men and woman commemorated in the common names of birds. London: Helm. ISBN 0713666471. 
  4. ^ Bull, Farrand (1994). National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 554. ISBN 0-679-42852-6. 
  5. ^ The Owl Pages. [1], Retrieved on May 10, 2013
  6. ^ Alaska Department of Fish and Game The Boreal Owl. [2], Retrieved on May 10, 2013.
  7. ^ Boulder County Nature Association. [3], Retrieved on May 10, 2013.

External links[edit]