Happy New Year to all and I trust you have enjoyed a terrific Christmas season. My photography New Years resolution was to get some decent shots of three owl species that we don’t often see in Southern Ontario…..a Snowy Owl, a Great Gray Owl and a Northern Hawk Owl. Fortunately I was able to cross the Northern Hawk Owl off the list after driving about an hour north of Oshawa last Friday morning. Leaving before sunrise I met up with my friend Arni – make sure you check out his website Nature’s Wonders in Pixels – and we were able to watch and photograph a Northern Hawk Owl for three or four hours.
The Northern Hawk Owl is a medium-sized owl (~16″ long with a 28″ wingspan) that typically lives in the Boreal Forest regions of Northern Canada where it feeds primarily on small mammals like mice and voles, however in the winter months when food becomes scarce they will also eat other birds. Although Northern Hawk Owls are non-migratory the lack of food availability during the winter months in the north displaces the owls southward which is what brings a few them to Southern Ontario this time of the year.
Northern Hawk Owls have amazing eye sight, being able to spot prey up to 800 meters away. They can also find and seize mice & voles under one foot of snow, which is truly remarkable. Northern Hawk Owls are monogamous and usually nest in tree cavities although they will take over nests of other large birds. They don’t construct their own nests. Both parents look after feeding the young however the male feeds the female for the week before she lays her eggs and for the 25-30 days she incubates them.
The Hawk Owl gets its name because it flies much like a hawk, low with quick shallow wing beats and gliding. It can also hover. Interestingly, they have the longest tails of any North American owl which gives them the look of a hawk.
Perhaps because Northern Hawk Owls live in the north and don’t see people very often, they show little fear of man and are surprisingly approachable. They seem to be very inquisitive and are birds with many different facial expressions which I’ve tried to illustrate in the following images.
All of these images were taken with a 500/f4 lens with a 1.4 x TC for an effective focal length of 700mm. If you are interested in seeing other owls you can find them in the Owl Gallery