Northern Harrier expelling a pellet

Northern Harrier with pellet in billNorthern Harrier with pellet in bill – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Last January I came upon this immature Northern Harrier expelling a pellet sitting on a fence at one our favorite locations on a cold, blustery winter day. At first the harrier was rather still but then I noticed that it appeared the harrier was about to expel a pellet by it’s behavior. The black blob in the harrier’s bill is the un-expelled pellet.

Observing birds behavior, watching their movements and actions can often lead to photos with loads of action. These photos aren’t my best, the light was not striking the bird at a very good angle and these are large crops.

Northern Harrier trying hard to expel a pelletNorthern Harrier trying hard to expel a pellet –  Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Owls, hawks, eagles, kites, falcons and harriers expel pellets of undigested bone and fur of the prey they eat usually at a rate of one pellet per meal. With harriers I’ve noticed a bulging of the throat area before a pellet is expelled and then the birds will open their bill to try to hack it up.

Northern Harrier almost fallingNorthern Harrier almost falling – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This Northern Harrier took about a minute to expel the pellet and I filled my buffer several times trying to catch all the action. The harrier appeared to be concentrating so hard on regurgitating the pellet that it nearly fell off of the fence.

Northern Harrier slipping on fence while regurgitating a pelletNorthern Harrier slipping on fence while regurgitating a pellet – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

The immature harrier was able to right itself without falling off of the fence but I was ready in case it did fall. As you can see the fence was not snow or frost covered so the bird didn’t slip because of that, I tend to believe that the slip was caused by the bird concentrating on expelling the pellet. It fluttered its wings to regain its position on the perch.

Northern Harrier showing the expelled pelletNorthern Harrier showing the expelled pellet – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor  200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

In the image above at the lower right side of the frame you can see the expelled pellet as it falls to the ground. Not long after the pellet was expelled the harrier took off, perhaps on a hunt for its next meal.

Mia

One Comment

  1. Harry Harris December 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Great series and I enjoyed the narrative.

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