|Conservation status||Northern populations in North America probably face no immediate threats. Status of western mountain populations still not well known.|
|Habitat||Mixed-wood and conifer forests, muskeg. Nests mostly in forests where coniferous trees such as spruce or fir are mixed with deciduous trees including aspen or birch. Such habitats are found at low elevations in the north, only in high mountains toward the south. During winter invasions, usually found in groves of conifers.|
Hunts mostly at night (although nighttime is not entirely dark in summer in far north). Hunts by moving through forest from one perch to another, watching for prey, then swooping down to take prey in its talons. Can capture prey hidden under snow or under dense vegetation, because ears are adapted for precise location of sounds.
3-4, sometimes 2-5 (European birds may lay more eggs). White. Incubation is by female only, 26-32 days. Young: Female remains with young most of time at first; male brings food, female feeds it to young. After about 3 weeks, female also hunts and brings back food. Young leave nest about 28-36 days after hatching, are fed by parents for at least 2 more weeks.
Female remains with young most of time at first; male brings food, female feeds it to young. After about 3 weeks, female also hunts and brings back food. Young leave nest about 28-36 days after hatching, are fed by parents for at least 2 more weeks.
Mostly small mammals. Feeds mostly on voles and mice, also small squirrels, shrews, pocket gophers. Also eats small birds of various kinds, and insects, especially crickets.
Beginning in late winter or early spring, male sings at night to defend territory and attract female. In courtship, male feeds female. Male sings at potential nest holes, and female apparently makes final choice of site. Nest site is in cavity in tree, usually old woodpecker hole (Northern Flicker or Pileated Woodpecker) or natural hollow, 20-80' above ground. Also will use artificial nest boxes (some populations in northern Europe nest mostly in boxes). Usually chooses new nest site each year.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Apparently no regular migration, but stages irregular invasions south of nesting range during some winters, probably when food is scarce on breeding grounds.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
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Songs and CallsRapid series of whistled notes.
Learn more about this sound collection.