Female Northern Harrier in flight

Female Northern Harrier in flightFemale Northern Harrier in flight – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/4000, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Typically I see far more Northern Harriers in the winter here in Utah than I do during the breeding season which might be partly due to the harriers preferring to nest within marshy wetland areas which are in abundance around the Great Salt Lake. In fact; many people still call Northern Harriers by the name “Marsh Hawk”.

Last year I found a female Northern Harrier bringing nesting material to the nest which was the first time I had located a harrier nest.

The female above was photographed as she coursed along the Antelope Island causeway as she searched for prey last February.

Female Northern Harrier with the Wasatch Range in the backgroundFemale Northern Harrier with the Wasatch Range in the background – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This is the same female taken as she flew east with the snow-covered Wasatch Mountain Range in the background. The white rumps of Northern Harriers help to make the ID easier along with the owl-like facial disc.  Females are much browner than the males who are also known as the “Gray Ghost“.

I am always delighted to have opportunities to photograph Northern Harriers, especially when they are in flight and I am able to get some eye contact.



  1. Humming Bird Lover December 14, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Hi! Beautiful!! She is saying I know you! Today is your day to catch me watching you and being just in the right place! Love the eye’s and the form & colors!

    • Mia McPherson December 15, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Thanks Mom, we sure do have some handsome hawks!

  2. Julie Brown December 14, 2012 at 3:36 am

    Nice wings-up/wings-down comparison in these two images, Mia. That white rump patch is what allowed me to make the ID from a distance the two times that I have seen this raptor. The first time was over a field last January here in central Indiana. It was perched on a chain-link fence surrounding a small airport, then took off and glided low over the field before settling down on the ground.

    • Mia McPherson December 14, 2012 at 5:29 am

      Julie, I hope that you get to see many more Harriers, they are fascinating raptors and make great subjects. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Susan December 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    What wonderful photos, the Northern Harrier was my spark bird, I look for them all the time.

    • Mia McPherson December 14, 2012 at 5:28 am

      Thank you Susan. I think these could be a spark bird for a lot of people!

  4. Bob Bushell December 13, 2012 at 9:10 am

    What a beauty she is, well photographed Mia.

    • Mia McPherson December 14, 2012 at 5:27 am

      Thanks Bob, she is a beauty.

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