Northern Harriers

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Northern Harrier (f)

Northern Harriers are one of the raptors we see often cruising over fields and wetlands from Smith Lake to the potholes. They fly low, eyes on the ground, searching for small rodents. Its owlish face helps it hear mice and voles beneath the vegetation as they hunt by ear more than by sight.

This female Harrier was out at first light, keeping an eye on the pothole activity. I’ve not seen them attempt to catch a coot or anything on the water, but they do cause a commotion among ducks and coots when they fly in low.

Harrier about to pounce 0743 am
Harrier over Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area

Wings in V-shape, white patch just above the tail, cruising low over wetlands – that’s the typical Harrier look. Males are silvery gray with black patches on wing tips. Females’ rusty brown colors blend with the reeds, grasses and cattails where she nests on the ground. They often stay around until their prey gets hard to find.

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