A Northern Harrier Grabs Lunch

by Larry Jordan on January 30, 2011

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) photos by Larry Jordan

Last weekend I went on an Audubon outing to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  We counted only 55 species and there were not as many waterfowl as there usually are during January.  It makes me wonder what kind of luck I will have in three weeks, observing from the photo blind at the refuge.  Only time will tell.  You never know what birds will show at the photo blind.

I’ve been trying to get some decent shots of a Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) for quite some time and I decided to make a concerted effort on this trip.  I got lucky when this female decided to plop down in the bulrush for a brief respite from her foraging activities.

Note the owl-like facial disc that allows these hawks to detect prey by sound.  I didn’t see this bird capture any prey on this day but back in November, I took a series of photos at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge of another female Northern Harrier successfully snatching a vole, their primary prey in winter.  Click on photos for full sized images.

Northern Harrier Female Pouncing on Prey

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

NicoleB, Kuwait January 30, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Gorgeous photos Larry!
You were once again at the right spot at the right time!
I was afraid you turned into bird fodder yourself 🙂
Missed you!


Mick January 31, 2011 at 12:04 am

Great close-up photos of the Harrier. Sometimes, birds do come close when we can photograph them! Great sequence of the bird catching its prey as well.


Dawn Fine January 31, 2011 at 5:57 am

What an excellent series! How very exciting to see this and be able to capture it!


Halcyon January 31, 2011 at 7:28 am

Very impressive!


YourBirdOasis.com January 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm

The bulrush background really makes those first two photos pop and the predation sequence is just plain awesome, how do you do it Larry?


Larry January 31, 2011 at 7:55 pm

@Nicole thank you. I was very busy the last couple of weeks getting ready for the Snow Goose Festival in Chico. I did a presentation/field trip on the Western Burrowing Owl. I should have posted that I would be occupied for a bit and unable to visit everyone but… I couldn’t find the time to do it 😉

@Mick thanks. I do spend quite a bit of time trying to get close to birds and waiting for them. I must say that my best bird watching and photography seems to happen when the birds come to me. If you learn their behavior and are in the right place, things happen.

@Dawn it was very exciting for me and I think I got lucky with some of the shots of the Harrier with the vole

@Halcyon thank you very much

@Chantelle thank you very much for those kind words. I think it really helps to know where the birds are and their habits but I think there is some luck involved too 😉


Mike B. January 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Great find! To everyone but the vole, that is.


NicoleB, Kuwait February 1, 2011 at 12:26 am

No worries, just glad you are alright 🙂


Christopher February 1, 2011 at 5:18 am

I am in the same boat as you Larry – I’ve been wanting to get a good photo of a Harrier for a long long time – but it looks like you nailed it. Great job!


Larry February 1, 2011 at 10:13 pm

@Mike thank you. I imagine the vole was not to happy

@Nicole I appreciate your concern. Thanks for looking out for me 😉

@Christopher I think my photographic nemesis birds are slowly coming around 🙂


Dave February 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Great series of images Larry – so often you see harriers come up empty taloned!


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