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The Unusual Northern Hawk-Owl

The hawk owl (Surnia ulula) is an interesting and unusual blend of hawk and owl. It is a true owl that is found in the north throughout the world. It both breeds in and over-winters in Montana.

Hawk owls are medium-sized, growing to over 16 inches long and weighing up to about 3/4 of a pound. The color is brown with light spots and bands. The face is bordered in black and the eyes are yellow.

This owl is unusual in more than appearance. It also doesn’t hunt at night or only at dawn and dusk. It is a diurnal owl that is active during the day.

Pairs of hawk owls typically build nests between 6 and 30 feet off the ground.

The primary diet of hawk owls is rodents, especially voles, squirrels, mice, rats, and lemmings, though it also takes birds as large as grouse and partridges.

The female incubates the eggs, but after the chicks are a couple of weeks old, she leaves the nest for hours at a time while the male guards the chicks aggressively.

Although it is definitely an owl, this beautiful bird does rather look like a hawk. There appear to be plenty of them, but they aren’t often seen.

  • Have you ever heard of or seen a hawk owl?

    • Yes
    • No
  • What do you think of this owl?

    • It is beautiful
    • It does sort of look like a hawk
    • I’d love to see one in the wild
    • It is okay, but I think that other owls are prettier

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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