Boreal owl

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Boreal owl
Amherst Island, Ontario, Canada
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Aegolius
A. funereus
Binomial name
Aegolius funereus

7, see text

Aegolius funereus dis.png
Range of A. funereus
  • Nyctala tengmalmi (Gmelin, 1788)
  • Cryptoglaux tengmalmi (Gmelin, 1788)
  • Glaux funerea (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Strix funerea Linnaeus, 1758
  • Strix tengmalmi Gmelin, 1788

The boreal owl or Tengmalm's owl (Aegolius funereus) is a small owl. It is known as boreal owl in North America, and in Europe typically as Tengmalm's owl after Swedish naturalist Peter Gustaf Tengmalm or, more rarely, Richardson's owl after Sir John Richardson.[2][3] The scientific name is from Latin. The genus name Aegolius is a type of screech owl, and funereus means "funereal".[4]

This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as Strigidae (true owl), which contains the most species of owl. The other grouping is Tytonidae (barn owl).

Due to the boreal owl’s shyness and evasive reaction to human activities, nocturnal habits and preferred inaccessible taiga forest habitat, it is rarely seen by humans.


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. The boreal owl has a weight range of 3.3-7.6 oz (93-215 g).[5] It is brown above, with white flecking on the shoulders and whitish underparts with rust-colored streaks. (The plumage of young birds is chocolate brown.) Its head is large with yellow eyes and a white facial disc that is sometimes described as giving the owl a "surprised" expression. The beak is a light yellow, rather than dark like its relative the northern saw-whet owl.[6] The boreal owl‘s flight is relatively noiseless and straight.[7]


The boreal owl is an unsociable nocturnal owl.[8] Its call is similar in sound to the "winnowing" of the North American Wilson's snipe.[9][10] 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.


Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

The boreal owl breeds in dense coniferous forests across northern North America and the Palearctic, 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 small owl eats mainly voles and other mammals but also birds as well as insects and other invertebrates. It is largely nocturnal, though in the northernmost 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:[11]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Aegolius funereus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Aegolius funereus". Avibase.
  3. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael (2003). Whose bird?: Men and women commemorated in the common names of birds. London: Helm. ISBN 0713666471.
  4. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 33, 166. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  5. ^ "Boreal Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology". Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ [1], page 442
  8. ^ "The Owl Pages". Retrieved May 10, 2013.
  9. ^ Alaska Department of Fish and Game The Boreal Owl. [2], Retrieved on May 10, 2013.
  10. ^ "Boulder County Nature Association". Retrieved May 10, 2013.
  11. ^ Gill F & D Donsker (Eds). 2014. IOC World Bird List (v 4.2). doi:10.14344/IOC.ML.4.2 Accessed 25 May 2014.

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