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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Northern Hawk-Owl -- Surnia ulula

RANGE: Breeds from tree-line in western and central Alaska to southern Keewatin, central Labrador south to southern Alaska, northern Minnesota, northern Michigan, and New Brunswick. Winters from the breeding range southward irregularly to southern Canada and northern Minnesota, and casually the northern United States.

HABITAT: Inhabits much of the northern open coniferous or mixed forests, forest edges, clearings, old burns, dense brushy areas (especially tamarack), scrubby second-growth woodlands, and muskeg.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open woodlands with cavities for nesting.

NEST: Usually nests in natural cavities or in enlarged holes of pileated woodpeckers and flickers, but also in birch, spruce, and poplar snags. Occasionally nests on cliffs or in crow's nests.

FOOD: Hunts extensively during the day, preying on small mammals (especially mice), birds, and insects. In summer, consumes primarily small mammals and insects. Preys on ptarmigan during winter when other foods are scarce.

REFERENCES: Bent 1938, Henderson 1919, 1925, Mendall 1944.

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