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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sky-Dancer

I'll never forget one of my early experiences with a bird similar to this.  It was a long time ago and I had been birding for a little while.  I was with a group and someone noticed an extremely pale raptor perched on a post in the distance.  We could only see its face, but I was familiar with most of the local raptors, so I was surprised that it was puzzling and difficult to identify at first.


I was having a hard time with the identification because males of this species are less common than females.  And the males become paler gray with age.  The bird we were looking at was so pale it was almost white.  (A nickname for a very pale male Northern Harrier is the "Gray Ghost.")

The male harrier in these photographs was perched in the salt marsh near Doran Beach.  It appeared to be actively looking and perhaps listening for prey in the vegetation.  (It was breezy at the time, so some of its feathers were being lifted by the wind.)



Earlier in the month I photographed a male harrier in flight at the beginning of the road along Doran Beach.


Male harriers perform a Sky-Dance Display for females.  In spring, watch for these impressive courtship flights with steep, U-shaped undulations (description from The Birds of North America account by Smith et al. 2011).  

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