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Phantom of southern Appalachian mountain forests, saw-whet owls

Published 10:40am Monday, April 9, 2012

Like several owls, Saw-whets nest in cavities in trees, but it was not until the summer of 1995 when the first nest in a natural cavity was found in the state. Researchers working with the owls found a nest in a yellow birch high on Grandfather Mountain. All of the other nests had been in manmade nesting boxes constructed for northern flying squirrels. Upon closer examination of this cavity, six eggs were found and it is believed that all of the birds successfully fledged and left the nest.
To hear this enigmatic owl, it is best to take a spring or summer evening drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop at various overlooks to listen. If you are lucky you might hear the clear bell-like notes of the Northern Saw-whet Owl in the cool mountain air.
Simon Thompson has lived in WNC for the past 18 years. He owns and operates his own birding tour company, Ventures Birding Tours.
He and Chris Jaquette also own and operate the Asheville Wild Birds Unlimited Store. For more information on any of the birding activities in the area, drop by the store or check his website at

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