AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Plate 27, Hawk Owl

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Hand-colored lithograph by Ralph Trembly for the firm of J.T. Bowen after John James Audubon (1785 - 1851)

From Vol. 1 of the first octavo edition of the The Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories. New York: J. J. Audubon; Philadelphia: J. B. Chevalier, 1839 - 1840.

Paper dimensions: approximately 10 x 6 ½ inches

Octavo part number: 6

Current name: Northern Hawk-Owl, Surnia ulula

Corresponding Havell edition plate number: 378, Hawk Owl

Audubon described the Hawk Owl as follows:

"It is always disagreeable to an author to come forward when he has little of importance to communicate to the reader, and on no occasion have I felt this more keenly than on the present, when introducing to your notice an Owl, of which the habits, although unknown to me, must be highly interesting, as it seems to assimilate in some decree to the diurnal birds of prey. I have never seen it alive, and therefore can only repeat what has been said by one who has. Dr. RICHARDSON gives the following account of it in the Fauna Boreali-Americana:-- 

"It is a common species throughout the Fur Countries from Hudson's Bay to the Pacific, and is more frequently killed than any other by the hunters, which may partly be attributed to its boldness and its habit of flying about by day. In the summer season it feeds principally on mice and insects; but in the snow-clad regions which it frequents in the winter, neither of these are to be procured, and it then preys mostly on Ptarmigan. It is a constant attendant on the flocks of Ptarmigan in their spring migrations to the north-ward. It builds its nest on a tree, of sticks, grass, and feathers, and lays two white eggs. When the hunters are shooting Grouse, this bird is occasionally attracted by the report of the gun, and is often bold enough, on a bird being killed, to pounce down upon it, though it may be unable from its size to carry it off. It is also known to hover round the fires made by the natives at night." 

I lately received a letter from my friend Dr. THOMAS M. BREWER, of Boston, Massachusetts, in which he informs me that "the Hawk Owl is very common at Memphramagog Lake in Vermont, where as many as a dozen may be obtained by a good gunner in the course of a single day. Its nests in the hollow trees are also frequently met with." It is surprising that none should have been seen by Mr. NUTTALL or Mr. TOWNSEND while crossing the Rocky Mountains, or on the Columbia river; especially as it has been found by my friend EDWARD HARRIS, Esq. as far southward on our eastern coast as New Jersey. 

HAWK OWL, Strix hudsonica, Wils., vol. vi. p. 64. 
STRIX FUNEREA, Bonap. Syn., p. 35. 
HAWK OWL, Strix funerea, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 115. 
HAWK OWL, Strix funerea, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iv. p. 550. 

Male and Female. 

Tail long, much rounded, the lateral feathers two inches shorter than the middle. Upper part of head brownish-black, closely spotted with white, hind neck black, with two broad longitudinal bands of white spots; rest of upper parts dark brown, spotted with white; tail with eight transverse bars of white, the feathers tipped with the same; facial disks greyish-white, margined with black; lower parts transversely barred with brown and dull white. 

Male, 15 3/4, 31 1/2. Female, 17 1/2."

From: AUDUBON, John James: The Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories; New York and Philadelphia: J. J. Audubon and J. B. Chevalier, 1840 - 1844.


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The Birds of America, Octavo Edition

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