Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Chris Grondahl and Jonn Schumacher
The following pages describe the nine owls of North Dakota and are designed to help you locate and identify these fascinating birds of prey. Four of the nine owls are fairly common nesting species, while the others either nest occasionally or are found during particular seasons. Three of our owls depend primarily on native grasslands and have shown population declines presumably in response to the loss of required food and habitat.
Owls have extraordinary sight and hearing capability. Their eyes are large and used to hunt during the night. Ears of the owl are even more remarkable. They are openings in the side of the head surrounded by deep, soft feathers, which the owl can shape to direct sound into the ear. The bird's facial disc, generally outlined by some change in feather pattern or color on the face, is also believed to help direct sound into the ear canal.
Owl feathers are very soft in comparison to other birds and aid the owl in approaching prey quietly. They can strike their victims in the air, on the ground or even in trees by using long, sharp talons.
Even though owls are occasionally taken by birds such as the goshawk or golden eagle, their primary predator is man. Often, owls are shot or trapped under the assumption they have a negative effect on game bird populations. What we should remember is that owls are simply making a living by eating what is available just like any other predator.
Note: Owls are migratory birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to harm or possess any of these birds. If you find an owl that appears to have been shot, trapped or poisoned, please report this information to your local game warden. Please contact the Game and Fish Department if you have any other questions concerning these species.
Grondahl, Chris and John Schumacher. No Date. The owls of North Dakota. North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Bismarck, ND. 4pp.This resource should be cited as:
Grondahl, Chris and John Schumacher. No Date. The owls of North Dakota. North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Bismarck, ND. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/owls/index.htm (Version 16JUL97).