From my limited experience:

1) NSWO are uncommon, but probably not as rare as most think, in northern MO. Can't speak from experience for central MO, but I would imagine the same is true for central MO, and eastern MO north of the Ozarks.

2) First year birds and perhaps a few adults will begin arriving in mid-to-late October, adults probably follow in large numbers in November. (banding stations at similar latitudes as MO get birds in mid-October, I think)

3) Anywhere with decent numbers of Eastern Red Cedar are a good bet, but they will occur in areas without Eastern Red Cedar as well (so I hear, I've never found them there, but haven't searched).

4) Saw-whets tend to be loyal to a day-time roost in winter for weeks or months. 

Suggestions for searching/basis for my answers... the last couple of years I was in north central MO, I would occasionally go out to areas and tape/whistle for saw-whets about an hour after dusk. Taping for them requires patience, as sometimes you have to play for about 15-20 minutes before the birds will respond (I would whistle and imitate bill clicks while I reset the recording). I had best results on an outing in early November, which is consistent with what I heard about first winter birds being the most vocal when they first come down. Using taping, it is possible to cover a MUCH larger area than looking, and gives a more accurate representation of what's out there. In two outings at Union Ridge CA (roughly 30 miles south of the IA border), I had at least two saw-whets responding both times. If you want to tape, I'd get out sooner rather than later.

What was remarkable for me was how unremarkable the habitat was where I had them at Union Ridge CA.  It was a portion of the area that was a former pasture overgrown with cedars from before MDC had acquired the area... areas like this literally abound in north-central and north-eastern Missouri.  If I would have had more time (this seems to be a phrase I repeat way too often with birding) I would have checked out lots of similar areas to test my theory (most of these areas have saw-whets in northern MO, they just go undetected). If looking for a new place to find the birds, I'd concentrate efforts on a place that has gone over to cedar succession but has a high-calorie source of food nearby to attract rodents, maybe some crop fields  closeby or remnant grasses w/ seeds in the understory.

If looking for birds visually, it might be best to wait until January or February, when more pellets and whitewash have accumulated under roosts. Then again, I'm just not as good as some at looking for saw-whets, so maybe somebody else better chime in there.

I've always felt like people treat looking for saw-whets a lot like family recipes-- lots of secrets! People tend to keep things pretty close to the vest with where they look and what they find, and even how they look. Definitely understandable for birds on roosts to avoid harassment, but I'd be interested to hear feedback from others with lots of experience to see if they've had the same experiences I've had re: Bryan's questions.

Phil Wire
Edwardsville, IL
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On Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 2:54 PM, bryan prather <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I had a couple questions regarding the Northern Saw-Whet Owl.
1)Frequency of occurence in Missouri as a whole.
2)Factors that may influence their arrival.
3)Places to possibly see/hear them in Eastern Missouri.(Preferably the greater St. Louis area.)
4)Do they set up territories while their here?
Feel free to post answers on the list.
Thank You in advance,

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