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Northern Hawk-Owl

Surnia ulula


Male Northern Hawk-Owls are generally 36.0–42.5 cm long and weigh 300 g. Females are slightly bigger with a length of 37.2–44.7 cm and a mass of about 340g. Both male and female have similar wingspans of about 45 cm. The Northern Hawk-Owl plumage is relatively dark brown with an off white spotting pattern on all dorsal parts of the body with the exception of the back of the neck which boasts a black v-shaped pattern. The underbelly is generally white or off-white which continues to the toes with brown bands on the breast and stomach. It also boasts a long tail with brown banding. The Northern Hawk-Owl has a smokey white face with a black border, a flat head, yellow eyes and a yellow curved beak.[2] The Northern Hawk-Owl has been said to resemble a hawk in appearance and in behavior. In North America, its appearance in flight is often considered similar to a Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). It has been suggested that this may be because the Hawk-Owl may partially fill an important diurnal niche similar to that of day hunters such as hawks.


Three subspecies exist across the northern holarctic.[4][5] The North American subspecies S.u.caparoch spans from eastern Alaska through to Newfoundland and in some areas extends south into northern United States.[2][5] The other two subspecies are found in Eurasia: S. u. tianschanica breeds in central Asia reaching Xinjiang (China) and S. u. ulula resides across Eurasia reaching Siberia at its most eastern range.[2] Occasionally, S.u.caparoch can extend its territory as far south as northern Minnesota and many other states in the northern United States including more central states such as West Virginia, New York, and South Dakota. These southern forays into the northern United States are rare and generally occur during winter, or following an explosion in a population of prey.[2] S. u. caparoch has been known to reach Great Britain. As in North America, the Eurasian subspecies can occasionally be found in more southern areas such as the following: Great Britain; and southern Russia and Scandinavia, following explosions of prey. Northern Hawk Owls are unevenly distributed and highly variable throughout the boreal forest.[2] They live mostly in open coniferous forests, or coniferous forests mixed with deciduous species such as larch, birch, poplar, and willow.[4] They are found in muskegs, clearings, swamp valleys, meadows,[4] or recently burnt areas,[6] and generally avoid dense spruce-fir forests.[4] Winter habitat is usually the same as breeding habitat.


On top of white spruce.

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Robb Hannawacker
Spotted by
Robb Hannawacker

Alaska, USA

Spotted on Sep 20, 2009
Submitted on Jul 7, 2013

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Northern Hawl Owl Northern Hawk Owl Hawk Owl? Northern Hawk Owl

Nearby Spottings

Black-billed Magpie Coyote mountain avens, white dryas The Hen Harrier or Northern Harrier (in the Americas)


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