Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk juvenile with an American Coot Dark morph Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk juvenile with an American Coot

I haven’t had many opportunities to photograph the Harlan’s subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk so I was thrilled yesterday when I spotted a juvenile dark morph Harlan’s Hawk feeding on a dead American Coot on the bank of a creek. There were coot feathers all over the snow and the juvenile Harlan’s didn’t seem bothered by our presence as it kept feeding on its prey.

A pile of feathers and a Harlan's Hawk A pile of feathers and a Harlan’s Hawk

This was a real treat for me to see this bird up close, observe its behavior and to be able to photograph it. Harlan’s are a dark subspecies of Red-tailed Hawk and typically I see far fewer of them than western Red-tailed Hawks.

Harlan's Hawk juvenileHarlan’s Hawk juvenile with an American Coot

I was able to get a couple hundred images of this young raptor while it fed on the coot.

Harlan's lifting off with prey Harlan’s lifting off with prey

Then another vehicle that had passed by the pickup backed up to see what we were photographing and that was too much for the Harlan’s comfort so it grasped the coot in its talons…

Juvenile Harlan's flying away with an American Coot Juvenile Harlan’s flying away with an American Coot

And flew away to finish its meal in peace.


*All images were taken with a Nikon D300, f8, ISO’s of between 400 to 500, shutter speeds between 1/1250 and 1600, +0.3 EV, a Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited, set up or called in. The Harlan’s provided its own meal.