Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Harrier on the hunt

Even though northern harriers were the first hawks I photographed at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, I still don't know much about them.

I misidentified this female hawk as a red-tailed hawk. I still remember my first raptor field guide that told me: "when in doubt, call it a red-tailed hawk." Many raptors look like red-tailed hawks at various times in their maturity.

Harriers have a pretty distinctive flight pattern, low to the ground, watching and listening for small prey. They often fly with their wings in a "V" pattern. 

We tend to see harriers in the winter in western Washington, although they are year-round residents in the rest of the state. I thought the harrier flying behind these gulls was a brown gull until she flew past them to hunt in the meadow.

Visit my Talons Gallery for more favorites.

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