Deep Dive: Northern Hawk Owl

by Chris Anderson on January 18, 2024

This owl stands alone among its cousins in the owl world. Behaviorally, it could be confused for a hawk. 

Northern Hawk Owls give birders an exciting find as they can be viewed hunting during the daytime, an uncommon characteristic among owls. Perched on treetops, they will scan their fields of opportunity, seeking out their unsuspecting prey -- and get this, up to a mile away! 

This owl breeds in the boreal forests of Northern Canada. Hawk owls will migrate to Southern Canada and the Northern United States. It is often found in regions with spruce trees but avoids dense stands of conifers. Enthusiasts observe the owls roosting in tree branches, typically close to the trunk and in the branches, where they are hidden. 

Unlike many owls, male and female Hawk Owls are close to the same size, unlike other species where the female is larger. They stand about 14 to 17 inches in height and weigh between 8 and 16 ounces. If you want to imagine that size, think of an average size crow. 

Another similarity to the hawk is the owl's coloring. Yellow eyes peer out from a white face with a distinctive black border. Northern Hawk Owls are brown above with white spots and have brown horizontal stripes across their underparts.