Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl photographs taken at Lakeshore State Park on Milwaukee’s Lakefront on December 9, 2013.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

Binomial name: Bubo scandiacus

Category: Typical Owls

Description: Adult males are mostly white with a few dark feather tips.  Adult females and juveniles are white with dark scalloping on chest, back, wings, and tail.  Yellow eyes, black beak, and feathery feet.

Size: 20”- 28” long, 49” – 59” wingspan

Weight: 3.5 lb. – 6.6 lb.

Habitat: Wide open, treeless spaces such as shorelines, lakes, open fields, and agricultural sites.

Diet: Small mammals such as rodents, lemmings, voles, mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and other birds such as shorebirds, songbirds, ducks, geese, and pheasants.

Nesting: The female builds a nest on a mound with good visibility.  She scrapes away the top layer of soil and, over several days, presses her body into the ground to make a depression.  She will lay a clutch of 3 to 11 eggs and incubate them for about 5 weeks.  Both parents will defend the nest and care for the hatchlings which are born pure white.  The same nest may be used year after year.

Notes: Snowy owls are considered the heaviest owl in North America, weighing about a pound more than its closest contender, the Great Horned Owl.  A snowy owl was featured in the Harry Potter series when Harry received his pet, Hedwig.  It is also the official bird of Quebec.

Snowy Owl

Great Gray Owl

This Great Gray Owl was reported by a local resident. Two days after the posting, I made the run up to Mauston very early in the morning. The exact location of this owl was not given but I had a hunch on where the location was. Two other bird parties arrived early and the bird was located after an hour of searching. I spent the better part of the day enjoying great looks of this bird along with a couple other birders as the bird stayed most of the day with in viewing area. I was able to record a short video, too.  When it did disappear, it was only for a short period time. Photographs taken February 27, 2013 in Mauston, WI.


Great Gray Owl

Binomial name: Strix nebulosa

Category: Typical Owls

Description: Gray feathers in various shades cover the body.  The upper parts are gray with pale streaks while the underparts are gray with dark streaks.  Yellow eyes surrounded by dark circles.

Size: 24” – 33” long, 55” – 60” wingspan

Weight: 1.3 lbs. – 4.2 lbs.

Habitat: Conifer and pine forests, near open areas such as meadows or wetlands

Diet: Rodents (especially voles), hares, weasels, thrushes, grouse, and ducks

Nesting: Great Gray Owls do not build nests.  They may occupy a nest previously built by other large birds such as hawks or other raptos.  They may also nest in broken tree tops or empty tree cavities.  A female usually lays 2 to 5 eggs and raises 1 brood per season.  Only the female incubates the eggs and the incubation period lasts about 30 days.  The male will hunts for enough food to feed both the female and the chicks until they become fledglings, 3 to 4 weeks after hatching.

Notes: The Great Gray Owl has a highly developed sense of hearing which is vital to hunting.  They may even locate and capture prey moving beneath snow or ice, plunging through to make the catch.

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Northern Hawk Owl

The Northern Hawk Owl is an uncommon visitor to Wisconsin. This bird had a long stay of 4+ months in Door County, Wisconsin near Sister Bay. This bird’s normal range is Canada; the southern border of the range is the most northern edge of Minnesota. Photographs taken February 13, 2013.

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Northern Hawk Owl

Binomial name: Surnia ulula

Category: Typical Owls

Description: Dark brown feathers with cream-colored spots on upper parts; black plumage on the back of the neck.  Underparts and tail feathers are cream with brown bands.  Eyes and beak are yellow.

Size: 14” – 18”, 18” wingspan

Weight: 10.5 oz.

Habitat: Deciduous and coniferous forests near open areas such as clearings, meadows, and swamps

Diet: Rodents (especially voles), hares, weasels, thrushes, grouse, and finches

Nesting: Both parents build a nest, normally in the top of dead conifers or hollow stumps or, more rarely, on cliffsides.  The female lays 3 to 11 eggs and does most of the incubating while the male hunts.  After 25 to 30 days, the chicks will hatch and the female will hunt while the male guards the nest.  After about 3 weeks, the fledglings will begin to leave the nest.

Notes: Northern Hawk Owls are considered a rare bird due to their low population density and remote nesting habitats.  However, if you are lucky enough to find one, they may allow you to approach quite closely.  They are unusually tolerant of humans.  But, if it is breeding season, the males tend to get quite aggressive while defending their young.  Approach with caution.



































Barred Owl

Barred Owl with owlets at Pheasant Branch, Madison Wisconsin. Photographs taken on May 7, 2013

Barred Owl Adult

Barred Owl Adult

Barred Owl Juvenile

Barred Owl Juvenile


Adult coming in to nest cavity to feed a juvenile.

Adult coming into nest cavity to feed a juvenile.

Adult coming into nest cavity to feed a juvenile.

Adult coming into nest cavity to feed a juvenile.


Adult turning around in nest cavity.

Adult turning around in nest cavity.

Adult exiting nest cavity.

Adult exiting nest cavity.

Adult in flight after leaving nest cavity.

Adult in flight after leaving nest cavity.

2 Juveniles in nest cavity.

2 Juveniles in nest cavity.



Short-eared Owls in the South Kettle Moraine at the Scuppernong River Habitat Area in Waukesha County Wisconsin on March 8, 2013

The Short-eared Owl has been one species on my list to see and photograph. The Scuppernong River Habitat Area in Waukesha County has some and I went out, spent the afternoon till dark to try to capture these cool birds. Late in the day as the sun is just starting to go down 4 birds appeared from out of no where it seemed. They hovered over the prairie areas and on occasion perched for a couple of minutes. These images are a little rough because of the little light that is left in the day when they come out and start their hunting, but show some of the action that took place. Images where taken on March 8, 2013.


Short-eared Owl

Binomial name: Asio flammeus

Category: Typical Owls

Size: 15” long, 38” wing span

Weight: 12 oz













With vole