Northern Hawk Owls

Northern Hawk Owl, US Fish & Wildlife photoJuvenile Northern Hawk Owls, US Fish & Wildlife photoNorthern Hawk Owl, Mdf photo

Named for its falcon-like wing shape and long tail, the northern hawk owl (Surnia ulula) is non-migratory, staying within its breeding range and living in boreal forests of the Crown of the Continent. Hunting during both daytime and night, it perches on trees and uses its great speed to overtake prey, which can be a variety of birds and small mammals. Hawk owls sometimes use their exceptional hearing to dive for rodents below the snow. They have been known to attack humans if they approach a nest containing young.

In Glacier National Park, only one reliable sighting of northern hawk owls was recorded prior to 1990. Between 1990 and 1998 four nesting sites were documented – all within post burn areas. By 2008, 14 nesting sites produced 33 young in Montana, all of which occurred in post burn forests of Glacier.

Research into this species is now conducted in forests burned since 2001. Nest sites are observed and documentation made of site characteristics, prey delivery rates, and other behaviors, as well as fledging and dispersal numbers. Research is aimed at learning more of the interrelationship between northern hawk owls and their observed dependence on recently-burned forest habitats.