Thursday, November 20, 2008

Adult Male Harrier

We band very few adult hawks in Cape May, as most of the coastal migrants are hatch year birds. This is the first adult male northern harrier that I have seen in the hand; I still have not held an adult female.

Note the bright yellow eyes and gray facial disk.

While the breast is gray, the belly is white (with light brown barring).

The back is darker gray than the wings.

These birds stand out at a distance, so much so that they seem less in tune with their surroundings than the female and immature forms, which take the color of marsh and meadow grasses. Male harriers seem to belong on the tundra, like snowy owls or gyrfalcons.