Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia uvula)

Northern Hawk Owl


  • The northern hawk owl is a medium-sized owl, about 35 centimetres (14 inches) long.


Identifying traits for this species include:
  • Although a true owl, this bird closely resembles a hawk because of its short, relatively pointed wings, long wedge-shaped tail, and its hawk-like flight and perching posture.
  • The northern hawk owl is distinguished by:
    • a lack of ear tufts
    • dark brown upper parts with white spotted wings
    • a speckled and streaked crown and hind neck
    • the white underside is finely barred with black
    • two darker patches are located on either side of the breast.
  • The northern hawk owl frequents all natural regions except the alpine sub-region and the grassland region.
  • During fall and winter it moves southward, often as far as the northern states.
Natural History


  • Can be found in brushy openings and muskegs


  • This owl hunts very much like a hawk. Perching on dead trees and skimming low and rapidly over the ground, it swoops down on mice and voles, its predominant prey species.

When Active

  • The northern hawk owl is fully active during the day.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • Nests are found in the cavities of trees and dead stumps.
  • Three to seven eggs are laid.
Conservation and Management


The northern hawk owl is classified as Sensitive in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management

  • Like all birds of prey in Alberta, the northern hawk owl is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act.


  • Northern hawk owls require stands of mature forest for nesting and burns for hunting, both of which are threatened by current forestry practices.
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Updated: Apr 29, 2010