Northern Harrier Hunting Behavior

I was parked near a field at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge around 9:00 in the morning when I spotted a Northern Harrier on the ground. I may have missed seeing it if it had not started hopping around. I couldn’t tell if it had caught prey, but suddenly it took flight, flying low over the same spot. After a minute or two, it landed in the same spot and began hopping around. It seemed the harrier could hear prey but was having trouble pinpointing its location. I did not hear any calls or other sounds that might have been related to the hunt.

Northern Harrier Foraging on Ground
Northern Harrier Foraging on Ground (Larger Image)

After a while, it took flight and began flying over the field in different locations, flying further away. Northern Harriers are known for their slender, long-winged appearance and are often found hunting low over the ground, using their exceptional hearing to capture prey. During the winter season, they are commonly seen in habitats with low vegetation, including marshes, grasslands, and open floodplains. They forage on the wing and course low over the ground. Their unique hunting behavior involves flying low over the ground, weaving back and forth over fields and marshes as they watch and listen for small animals.

Northern Harrier on the Wing
Northern Harrier on the Wing (Larger Image)

Overall, their foraging behavior leads them to spend a significant amount of time on the ground, making it a common sight to find them in such locations. Spotting a Northern Harrier hunting in its natural habitat offered a unique glimpse into this raptor’s fascinating behavior.

Northern Harrier Flying Low Over Field
Northern Harrier Flying Low Over Field (Larger Image)

Image Information (Third Image):

  • Date: 01/13/24
  • Time: 09:18 AM
  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM
  • ISO: 1250
  • Aperture: 7.1
  • Shutter: 1/3200
  • Exp. Comp.:-0.7
  • Lens (mm): 500
  • Program Mode: Manual