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.
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.