Friends of Kootenay Blog

Access stories and photos about the natural and human history of Kootenay National Park and Columbia Valley Includes highlights about the Friends of Kootenay National Park activities and programs.


Hawk Owls Spotted Frequently

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Northern Hawk Owl in the Vermilion Valley - by Larry Halverson


Northern Hawk Owl, is an owl in hawk's clothing. It is a fitting description considering the bird’s appearance and behaviour. At first glance, the crow sized Hawk Owl resembles an over grown Kestrel. The wings are relatively short and pointed and its flight is swift and direct. The tail is long and wedge shaped. Another hawk-like similarity is its habit of 

perching on the tops of dead trees to survey the ground for movement of small mammals. When the prey is spotted it drops from its perch and bullets towards its meal (usually a meadow vole). Hunting during the daylight makes the Hawk Owl even more akin to hawks. Yet, with all these similarities, the Hawk Owl’s large head, soft feathers and large yellow eyes mark it as a true owl.

The reason it is called Northern Hawk Owl is that they are essentially a sub-arctic bird. Occasionally, though, they wander south during sever winters when food shortages occur in the north. Northern Hawk Owls like burnt forests and two of them have been seen quite regularly in the Kootenay burns. So next time your driving through the park particularly around the Floe Lake trailhead keep your eyes open for an owl in hawk's clothing.

Northern Hawk Owls breeding in Kootenay Natioinal Park