Northern Hawk Owl

The Piermont, NH, Public Library will be hosting me to present my slideshow, An Uncommon Look at the Common Loon, next Sunday, March 3, at 2 p.m. in the Old Church Building in Piermont. That’s right across Route 10 from the Library, not far south of the Route 10 and 25 intersection. Free and everyone welcome.

Northern hawk owls are small owls that live in the boreal forest, mostly north of the US. They’re occasional visitors to New England. I’ve heard of two in New England this winter. One has been persisting in Pittsburg, NH for the last couple of weeks. I went up to visit last Sunday.

Northern hawk owls are daytime hunters. Many owls have ears that are asymmetrical – they’re a bit offset from center on their heads. This allows them to pinpoint noises and allow them to hunt by ear. Northern hawk owls have symmetrical ears which lessen their ability to hunt by ear. They behave more like hawks and use exceptional eyesight – they seem to be able to see small rodents at half a mile. This means they’re out and about during the day, making photography much easier.

Easier, not easy. The owl visiting New Hampshire seems to prefer telephone poles and wires for perches – hardly photogenic.

This seems to be one of the owl’s favorite perches. It allows a good view of fields on both sides of the road and isn’t very far from a thicket of trees should it need cover. The owl didn’t seem to care about the small group of photographers patiently waiting for him? to show up. He flew in with us standing around in the road.

The owl went about his business while we waited. He took time to do some preening.

And cleaning his talons. Those are pretty big talons for a small bird.

Hawk owls stand up straight and try to make themselves skinny when there’s a predator in the air nearby. There were several eagles in the area, one flew by not far from the perch. I suspect that this helps hide the owl when perched at the top of the tree. A tall skinny shape may make the owl less conspicuous to predators.

The owl seemed to be determined to taunt the photographers. After a time at the top of the telephone pole, he flew to the wire almost directly above me.

We got great looks at him perched on the wire.

Late in the afternoon, he headed across the field to a row of evergreens and took up station at the top of one of them.

I suspect he’s spotted me.

There were a couple flights of ducks along the river in Pittsburg. And, the bluebirds have been busy inspecting our bird boxes, we’re hopeful we’ll host them again this spring.

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  1. Reply
    Margot February 28, 2024

    Lovely surprise to see these wonderful closeups of the Northern Hawk Owl I loved the one where it tilts its head looking down at you. Owls are my favorite bird. So great to spot them in the wild. Thank you for posting these.

  2. Reply
    Judy Payne March 1, 2024

    Thank you so very much for sharing these photos — bringing us with you to this beautiful bird!

  3. Reply
    Sonja Hakala March 1, 2024

    Oh Ian, these are wonderful photos of a bird I’ve never seen in the wild. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  4. Reply
    Kathy Landgraf March 1, 2024

    Gorgeous shots! Thank you for sharing these.

  5. Reply
    Priscilla Douglas March 1, 2024

    Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic pictures!! I have to wonder if the perch appeals to the bird because of camouflage – the patterns in the wooden pole, the insulator on the wire, or maybe just the view it offers!

  6. Reply
    Eva Daniels March 1, 2024

    A beautiful bird. Thank-you for sharing your photos, Eva

  7. Reply
    Suzy Hallock-Bannigan March 1, 2024

    Ian: Utterly delightful photos; thank you for much for sharing your talent! I really enjoyed this (am viewing them from my winter home in Arizona!). Will share with Facebook unless you object. stunning.

  8. Reply
    Alice Seelye March 1, 2024

    Thank you so much.

  9. Reply
    Sue Showalter March 1, 2024

    These photos are a treat to behold. Thank you for posting your wonderful images of yet another magnificent creature.

  10. Reply
    Sonny March 1, 2024

    Great photos, Ian. Fantastic resolution.

  11. Reply
    Philiip Evanstock March 1, 2024

    Here in Arizona we have great members of the owl family but not this marvelous Northern Hawk Owl. Fantastic pictures.

  12. Reply
    Lisa March 3, 2024

    What a treat!

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