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Northern Hawk Owl Surnia ulula


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Northern Hawk Owl
credit: Mdf/CCSA

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Family: Strigidae, Owls view all from this family

Description ADULT Gray-brown overall. Upperparts are marked with pale spots, smallest and densest on head; underparts are barred, as is long, tapering tail. Eyes and bill are yellow and facial disc is pale and rounded with striking white "eyebrows." JUVENILE Similar to adult.

Dimensions Length: 15-17" (38-43 cm); Wngspn: 33" (84 cm)

Habitat Widespread in taiga forest, but never common. Precise distribution and breeding success is dictated by numbers of small mammal prey.

Observation Tips Low density, nomadic habits, and fickle site faithfulness make it tricky to pin down. However, on the plus side, diurnal habits and fondness for perching on treetops allow superb views if you do find one.

Range Rocky Mountains, Mid-Atlantic, Alaska, Great Lakes, Plains, Eastern Canada, New England, Western Canada

Voice Male's territorial call comprises a series of trilling, piping notes that rise and fall in pitch throughout delivery.

Discussion Long-tailed appearance is diagnostic. In silhouette, recalls a large falcon, but note large, rounded head and typical owl face. Active during daylight hours, typically perching on prominent lookout, scanning ground for small mammal prey. Nests in tree holes. Sexes are similar.