However I still have a fondness for raptors, which is probably obvious to any one who knows me or reads this blog on a regular basis. My wife Michelle also has a fascination with raptors, although not nearly to the extent that I do. Her favorites are the owls, which thankfully we have a nice variety of here in Minnesota. During the winter we typically have more opportunities to see owls then during the summer. For instance great horned owls can be found in Minnesota all year round but they are easier to find during nesting time, which usually begins in late January or early Febuary. Then there are the migrant owls that will sometimes come down into Minnesota from Canada during the winter. These can include snowy owls, great grey owls, boreal owls and northern hawk owls like the ones in this post.
The northern hawk owl is a native of the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada, it is also found in the northern portions of Eurasia. They are primarily diurnal and can often be found searching for prey perched on the top branches of a tree during the day. Their typical prey consists of small mammals, mostly voles and lemmings, which they ambush from their perched position.
Each year we see a few of these birds that have migrated down to northern Minnesota from Canada. Typically these are young birds that have not yet established a territory of their own. If their is a lack of prey in their typical habitat then an irruption will occur as many birds migrate south in search of food. Typically these irruptions consist of 20 to 300 hundred birds however in the winter of 2004 / 2005 a couple of thousand northenr hawk owls found their way down into the northern half of Minnesota, along with a couple thousand boreal owls and over 5000 great gray owls. This year there was about 20 or so birds in the usual locations, such as the North Shore, St Loius County, or the Sax Zim Bog where these pics were taken on January 24th.