Living Bird Magazine
Northern Hawk OwlSurnia ulula
- ORDER: Strigiformes
- FAMILY: Strigidae
A bird of boreal forests, the Northern Hawk Owl behaves like a raptor, but looks like an owl. Its oval body, yellow eyes, and round face enclosed by dark parentheses are distinctly owl. Its long tail and habit of perching atop solitary trees and hunting by daylight, though, are reminiscent of a raptor. It is a solitary bird that tends to stick to the boreal forest, but some winters it moves south into the northern United States delighting birders near and far.More ID Info
Find This Bird
For nonmigratory birds like the Northern Hawk Owl that breed in the boreal forest, spotting one usually requires a trip to the frigid north. Hawk owls though do turn up from time to time in southern Canada and the northern United States. They don't seem to fear humans much and perch atop solitary trees in the middle of the day, so when they are around they can be easy to spot. At night they roost in tree branches, often close to the trunk and tucked in amongst the branches, where they can be more difficult to locate.
- Lechuza Gavilana (Spanish)
- Épervière boréale (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Northern Hawk Owl can detect prey by sight up to half a mile away.
- Northern Hawk Owls are thought to detect prey primarily by sight. Along with their tendency to hunt in the daytime, their symmetrical ear openings are cited as evidence for this—they presumably offer less acute hearing than the asymmetrical ear openings of species such as Boreal and Great Gray Owls. Even so, hawk owls can still find prey by sound, even when it is under a foot of snow.
- The Northern Hawk Owl sometimes wanders or invades areas far to the south of their normal range. Invasion years tend to occur when small-mammal populations decline following a good reproductive season.
- The oldest recorded Northern Hawk Owl was at least 5 years, 11 months old when it was found in Alberta, Canada.