Raptors - Sounds Wild
Hawk Owl


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Hawk Owl

An unusual bird is hunting on the Mendenhall Wetlands in Southeast Alaska. Cruising low over the flats it seems to be part hawk and part owl. It's a northern hawk owl.

The northern hawk owl is a fairly common bird of the boreal forest in Alaska. It does not migrate and although it's not generally found in Southeast Alaska, a scarcity of food can bring it outside its normal range. The hawk owl occurs throughout the forested areas of the interior, southcentral, and southwestern parts of the state, including the Kodiak archipelago. The species has a circumpolar distribution from Norway across northern Europe and Asia through Alaska and across Canada.

The owl is atypical of most owls because it hunts during daylight, using sight more than hearing to locate its prey. The hawk owl is named for its similarities in behavior and appearance with typical hawks. The crow-sized owl is about 13 inches long with a 30-inch wingspan. Unlike most owls it has a very small facial disk which is abbreviated in the brow region over the bright yellow eyes. The wings are large and, unlike those of most owls, pointed at the ends. The tail is very long for an owl and tapers at the end. When the bird flies, the pointed wings, long tail, and swift flight appear hawk-like.

The northern hawk owl does not build a nest. It lays its eggs in cavities in the broken tops of rotten trees or in large holes in trees. Only the female incubates the eggs; the male hunts and brings food to the female. Usually the male will perch within 100-200 yards from the nest. The persistent presence of a single owl during late April is usually an indication that a nest is somewhere nearby.