Northern Harrier

It was slow photographing this morning, the light wasn’t the best due to clouds coming in and there were very few birds close enough to photograph but you just never know when you’ll spot one cooperative bird and that is what happened today when I was on the way home.

Northern Harrier male Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) male ~ Davis County, Utah –  Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 800, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 285mm, natural light, not baited

This Northern Harrier displayed interesting behavior, it didn’t appear to be hunting but it would dive into the vegetation where it would make a sound that reminded me of parrots chattering. Then it would lift up, fly a few feet and drop back down into the vegetation where it would chatter again. It repeated this for at least thirty minutes. At one point a female flew close and this male chased her for about half a mile, they did interact by diving towards each other and at one point I saw the female flying upside down with her legs extended towards the male. The male then flew back to the general location that it had been when I was photographing it.

This male is transitioning into adult plumage, the primaries and secondaries have begun to attain the gray color of an adult male but the shoulders, head and back are still the brown color I expect to see in a juvenile.

Because of the light I didn’t come home with as many acceptable (by my standards) images as I would have liked but I’m pleased with this one.



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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Wonderful pictures of the harriers, and this one explains several strange-looking hawks I’ve seen near Springerville AZ this week.

    They are adolescent male marsh hawks turning grey but not there yet.

  2. Gosh, I almost missed this post. This is a great shot of my nemesis. I have yet to get any reasonable decent shot of a Northern Harrier. I did see one again this morning, but it was just a distant glimpse. I will just be content to look at yours………..for now. :-)

    • Bob, when I lived in Florida Northern Harriers were one of my nemesis birds too, they were only there during winter and very skittish. After moving to Utah I have had far more opprotunities to photograph them. I’m certain you will get your shots!

  3. That’s one of the best photographs of a Harrier I’ve seen. Great shot!

  4. Glad your “pleased” with this one, because it’s awesome!! I love the amazing detail in the wings! Such depth and perfect eyes! Wow, what a beautiful creature!

  5. Gorgeous shot, Mia! Lovely light on the bird, and the eye really pulls me in!

  6. Wow! that is an incredible shot.

  7. I would take a slow day like this anytime! Gorgeous wing detail, flight pose, and nice background.

  8. This is an incredible photograph Mia, amazing colors, contrast, almost as if painted.. Amazing.

  9. What a magnificent looking bird! Love the tail feather spread! A

  10. Beautiful subject – beautiful rendition. I am in awe. Thanks for sharing, Mia.

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