Northern Harriers

This gallery contains 4 photos. With her dark brown feathers and streaky breast, I’ve always found the female Northern Harrier to be more beautiful than the male Northern Harrier (the latter I like to call “Gray Ghost”). Getting a shot of her, however, has proved challenging. She’s more often in flight, or sitting down in a clearing, far out from even the best spotting scopes and super zoom telephoto lenses, and calling audibly. I’m not sure why she likes to call attention to herself when she’s on the ground, but she does it, and you can hear her from half a mile away.

Northern Harrier
meeting an adult male NOHA on the South Jetty (Iona Island Regional Park, February 22, 2015)
f/7.1, 1/500, 500mm, ISO 125

I have never seen a Northern Harrier, male or female, in a tree; they tend to favour grass or fence posts. On one occasion, sheer serendipity led us to cross paths–quite literally–with a female on her way out to the water at the start of our walk on the Boundary Bay Regional Park trail, not five seconds out of the parking lot. Our almost perfectly perpendicular meeting produced the shot below.

© WHSIM Female Northern Harrier in Flight 1.jpg
adult female NOHA showing white rump (Boundary Bay Regional Park, February 16, 2016)
(f/6.3, 1/800, 235mm, ISO 160)

The males I’ve encountered seem much less concerned about personal space. The fellow below is a regular in the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area. The reason I was able to get so close to him was because someone had left a plucked chicken (!!) out for him to snack on (note: baiting is considered an unethical practice in wildlife photography). When my subject finished eating what he could, he flew over to the other side of the trail I was standing on, and walked out onto the grass.

Northern Harrier
adult male NOHA in the grass (Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area, March 3, 2015)
f/6.3, 1/250, 500mm, ISO 125

Northern Harriers are silent, solitary hunters, but, unlike Short-Eared Owls (who also frequent the same hunting areas and prey), NOHAs are year round birds of prey in Metro Vancouver who prefer large expanses of grassland to hunt and nest. I have not seen NOHA nests or nestlings, but I have glimpsed the odd NOHA fledgling.

Northern Harrier
adult female NOHA hunting (Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area, February 12, 2016)
f/8, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 125

These birds of prey are quite easy to identify when they’re on the wing and even from great distances, thanks to the bands of white on their rumps, and their owl-like faces. Learn more about Northern Harriers by visiting their Cornell Lab of Ornithology allaboutbirds.org profile.

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13 thoughts on “Northern Harriers

  1. Pingback: Golden eagle lands, video | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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