Owl Invasion

This winter has brought many northern Owls down from Canada into Minnesota. The 4 Owls that may visit us in the winter are: Snowy Owl, Great Gray Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, and the elusive Boreal Owl. The Snowy Owl is the only true visitor, some of the other 3 Owls can and do stay around all year in the northern part of Minnesota. They are rare breeders in the very far northern part of the state.

The Boreal Owl is making a unusual incursion into the state this winter with many more sightings occuring this year than in years past. This little diminuitive Owl is one of the most seeked after species by birders. Only a few very lucky birders have added this tiny Owl to their “Life List”.

Here in Crane Lake, I have been fortunate to have a Boreal Owl show up in my backyard on two seperate occassions. Once in the invasion year of 2004/05 and once prior to that in 1996. It was during the winter and the Owls sat in the sun warming themselves for most of the day, making it two of the most thrilling and memorable days for me!

Boreal Owl in tree

The small shape in the tree is the Boreal Owl. I wanted to show this picture with some relativity so you can see how little these Owls are. What brought my attention to the bird initially was the group of Blue Jays that sat in the tree with the Owl. Many times Blue Jays will mob a predator bird and harass it until it leaves. In this case, the Owl ignored them. It was incredible to see the birds together as the Boreal Owl was no bigger than the Blue Jays. The only difference was that the Owl was plumper.

Boreal Owl

Here is a close up of the Owl. I didn’t want to get too close and disturb the bird, although he didn’t seem too concerned with my presence.

The Boreal Owl is perhaps one of the most difficult birds to find. They are strictly noctural (only active at night) which provides it own challenges to see the bird.

Here is an excerpt from the MOU Listserve on likely places to find Boreal Owls: Boreal Owls tend to like south-facing slopes or exposures (like road cuts and forest edges). They often sit and apparently sun themselves on the outside of conifers, often in the early afternoon, and usually from about eye-level up to 20 feet (but not usually higher). Some of this may be where they’re easiest to find, rather than where they spend most of their time. I imagine they roost deep in cover like Saw-whet Owls much of the time, but it’d be real tough to find one doing that.

It seems that at least once every winter, someone has seen a Boreal Owl sitting on their deck or in their yard. Please send in your photos to the Voyageur Sentinel newspaper and perhaps give me a call on the telephone. I would really appreciate knowing about any Owl sightings in the area.

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