Throughout the fall and winter, the northern harrier is a regular presence along the outer fields, sloughs and dikes bordering the Salish Sea. While the adults and juveniles are attired in different plumages, they all share the distinctive stark-white rump patch, sleek elongated body and habit of flying continuously just over the marshes. From aloft they plunge to reach deep into the thick grassy cover with their exceptionally long feet and toes to seize prey, most often meadow voles.
Following these birds in the field, one soon discovers these medium-sized hawks to be acrobatic in flight as they make startling turns and twists from their flight line. It’s not unusual here to find harriers in company with the very diurnal short-eared owls also wintering within the same locations. The two species chase competitors such as ravens and rough-legged hawks from the territory they hold in common. Find some public access to the open tidal marshes near you and discover this spectacle.
— Contributed by Tony Angell
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