NORTHERN HAWK OWL FACTS:
A medium-sized owl with a broad head, yellow eyes, yellow beak, and a long, tapered tail resembling a hawk
Males: back is dark brown with white spotting; chest and belly white with dark barring
Females: same as males
Young: more grayish-brown with less white marking
OTHER NAMES: None
CLOSEST RELATIVE: Northern Pygmy Owl
NORTHERN HAWK OWL SIZE:
Height: Males 36-39 cm (14.1-15.3 in), Females 36-39 cm (14.1-15.3 in)
Weight: Males 270-314g (9.5-11.0 oz), Females 320-345g (11.3-12.2 oz)
Wingspan Both: 74-81cm (29.1-31.9 in)
NORTHERN HAWK OWL RANGE:
In North America ranges throughout Alaska and Canada; usually non-migratory, but often winters in northern U.S.; circumpolar at northern latitudes; nomadic- populations erupt in response to vole numbers
NORTHERN HAWK OWL HABITAT:
tundra, taiga, sparse forests, burned areas
NORTHERN HAWK OWL DIET:
Mostly voles; sometimes other mammals and birds; occasionally reptiles, amphibians, and fish
NORTHERN HAWK OWL VOICE:
Usually quiet, except during nesting
Males: fast, burbling trills; “prullul-lullu”
Females: short, high-pitched trills
NORTHERN HAWK OWL NESTING:
Nest Site: cavity nester; also nests in stump tops, abandoned crow and raptor nests, and nestboxes
Eggs: 6-10 (sometimes up to 13) smooth, white oval-shaped eggs
Incubation: 25-30 days
NORTHERN HAWK OWL HUNTING HABITS:
Diurnal and nocturnal; perch and pounce hunter; frequently hovers; can seize prey in flight, plunge into snow, and detect prey on sound alone
NORTHERN HAWK OWL CONSERVATION STATUS:
Not globally threatened; numbers fluctuate extremely depending on abundance of rodents.
NORTHERN HAWK OWL RESEARCH:
Read about the Owl Research Institute's Northern Hawk Owl study in RESEARCH.
NORTHERN HAWK OWL DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH AMERICA
Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Is it a hawk or an owl? Is it an owl or a hawk? It’s the Northern Hawk Owl!
Aptly named for their hawk-like appearance, these unique birds are actually owls. Northern Hawk Owls resemble hawks with their long, tapered tails, smaller heads, and even their behavior. These owls fly with a mix of slow wing beats and long glides, much like hawks. They are often seen perching like hawks too- on the tops of tall trees, often near clearings- always watching for their favorite food: voles.
However, because populations of voles and other small mammals fluctuate greatly, so too does the appearance of Northern Hawk Owls. Though normally found in far northern regions, Hawk Owls are considered nomadic, dispersing from their normal range when local vole populations crash.
Northern Hawk Owls tend to inhabit areas far from cities and towns, but be a good observer and who knows? That next hawk you see gliding over the fields in search of tasty rodents might not be a hawk at all. It just might be a Northern Hawk Owl!
NORTHERN HAWK OWL
© KURT LINDSAY