31 January, 2010

Northern Hawk Owl

Scientific Name: Surnia ulula

Population Estimate: 130K

Range / Habitat: The Northern Hawk-Owl (Surnia ulula), or Northern Hawk Owl in North America, is a non-migratory owl that usually stays within its breeding range, though it sometimes irrupts southward.Three subspecies exist across the northern holarctic.The North American subspecies S.u.caparoch spans from eastern Alaska through to Newfoundland and in some areas extends south into northern United States. 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. 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.

Field Notes: 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.

Personal Notes: First seen in an irruptive year in Sax-Zim Bog, northern Minnesota. Later seen in Yoho National Park, British Columbia. 

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