Bird of the Week – Northern Harrier


There’s still a few Alaska raptors to have a look at. This week it’s the Northern Harrier, formerly known as the Marsh Hawk.

Northern Harrier, Delta Agricultural Project, Delta Junction, Alaska

Northern Harrier, Delta Agricultural Project, Delta Junction, Alaska

This is how you will most often see a Harrier, flying low over an open field or swamp, rocking back and forth a bit, head turned down, looking for prey. Northern Harriers hunt a wide range of prey, mainly small- and medium-sized mammals and birds, coursing low and buoyantly over the ground.

Northern Harrier, Fort Greely Training Area, Alaska

Northern Harrier, Fort Greely Training Area, Alaska

Unlike other hawks, the Harrier frequently relies heavily on auditory cues, as well as visual ones, to capture prey. Annual breeding numbers and productivity are strongly influenced by the availability of its primary prey in spring, usually voles.

Northern Harriers are sexually dimorphic, but both males and females show a characteristic white patch on their butts, and a strongly banded tail. And they are always a treat to see in the field.

Camera geek stuff:

Photo 1 – f7.1, 1/1000, ISO100, -0.67ev
Photo 2 – f6.3, 1/320, ISO200

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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