A good yard bird – Northern Harrier

I was sitting at my back door-wall today looking out at my feeders.. I have large flocks of Tree Sparrows, Juncos and Goldfinches… I was going to photograph the American Tree Sparrows because I was bored and I like there two toned bills… All of a sudden the birds all take off and what floats right thru my yard… A Northern Harrier…. It surprised me at first and then I aimed my camera at it and shot as it moved on thru… It circled around one more time before taking off…. I get them in the fields behind my house only in the winter time and mostly in February…. This is the first one this year….

Addendum: I received an email from Allen Chartier and I thought this was very interesting and informative.. Thanks Allen! “Did you happen to notice that the outer five primaries, and all the secondaries, are gray (recently replaced) while the inner five primaries are old and brown? This is what the Pyle guide (the one banders use) calls a “molt limit” and it is very cool whenever such things are visible on free-flying birds

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier


7 thoughts on “A good yard bird – Northern Harrier

  1. That is a neat yard bird, but the comment about molt is a bit inaccurate. The primaries are all the same age, there is no evidence of molt in the wings. Besides, the molt sequence described does not match what is typical.

    • Hi Marc,
      I quoted the response that I recieved from Allen Chartier in an email… I found his comments interesting and since he has been banding birds for many years, I appreciated his comments… Thanks for your response…


  2. Paul:

    Thank you for the response, just thought I would make the correction since you would want to know. I do not know who Allen Chater is but appreciate his willingnes to post…that is what it is all about, sharing information!

    I appreciate your blog!

  3. Greetings Paul:
    Your bird there must be hungry if she’s willing to come right in to the feeder after small fry like Tree Sparrows. BTW it’s a female. I have a long field on behind my house and the harriers are often in residence, providing a redtail isn’t about. But unless I have a crowd of doves at the feeders the harriers don’t commonly come that close. Not a hard and fast rule though, last year I walked out on the deck and found a Cooper’s Hawk perched there!
    Randy in Gaylord

    • Randal, I doubt the Harrier was looking for birds from the feeder… the field behind my home is full of Mice and Voles and they come in to my feeders and feed on the seed in winter… I know that its most likely a female, but as Allen noted, there are some interesting looking feathers on this bird… The tail is grey looking and the secondaries are also darker… I know one gentleman suggested shadows, but I have other pictures that are in direct sunlight and show the same pattern… The belly absolutely looks like a female as well as most of the other coloring…. either way its a cool looking bird..

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