We watched this Northern Harrier several times making our way through Mormon Row in the mornings. She would swoop and dive crazily after her prey and flew unlike any other hawk we have seen…
- Northern Harriers are the most owl-like of hawks (though they’re not related to owls). They rely on hearing as well as vision to capture prey. The disk-shaped face looks and functions much like an owl’s, with stiff facial feathers helping to direct sound to the ears.
- Juvenile males have pale greenish-yellow eyes, while juvenile females have dark chocolate brown eyes. The eye color of both sexes changes gradually to lemon yellow by the time they reach adulthood.
- Male Northern Harriers can have as many as five mates at once, though most have only one or two. The male provides most of the food for his mates and their offspring, while the females incubate the eggs and brood the chicks.
- Northern Harriers hunt mostly small mammals and small birds, but they are capable of taking bigger prey like rabbits and ducks. They sometimes subdue larger animals by drowning them.
- Northern Harrier fossils dating from 11,000 to 40,000 years ago have been unearthed in northern Mexico.
- The oldest Northern Harrier on record was 15 years, 4 months old when it was captured and released in 2001 by a bird bander in Quebec.
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This guy decided to visit one morning while we were making breakfast in a campground in Yellowstone National Park…
- Steller’s and Blue jays are the only North American jays with crests. The Blue Jay is expanding its range westward. Where they meet, the two species occasionally interbreed and produce hybrids.
- Steller’s Jays have the dubious honor of being one of the most frequently misspelled names in all of bird watching. Up close, the bird’s dazzling mix of azure and blue is certainly stellar, but that’s not how you spell their name. Steller’s Jays were discovered on an Alaskan island in 1741 by Georg Steller, a naturalist on a Russian explorer’s ship. When a scientist officially described the species, in 1788, they named it after him – along with other discoveries including the Steller’s sea lion and Steller’s Sea-Eagle.
- The Steller’s Jay and the Blue Jay are the only New World jays that use mud to build their nests.
- The Steller’s Jay shows a great deal of variation in appearance throughout its range, with some populations featuring black crests and backs, and others blue. One black-crested form in southern Mexico is surrounded by eight other blue-crested forms.
- Steller’s Jays are habitual nest-robbers, like many other jay species. They’ve occasionally been seen attacking and killing small adult birds including a Pygmy Nuthatch and a Dark-eyed Junco.
- An excellent mimic with a large repertoire, the Steller’s Jay can imitate birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, chickens, and some mechanical objects.
- The oldest recorded Steller’s Jay was 16 years 1 month old.
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An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year. On average, though, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.
Although robins are considered harbingers of spring, many American Robins spend the whole winter in their breeding range. But because they spend more time roosting in trees and less time in your yard, you’re much less likely to see them. The number of robins present in the northern parts of the range varies each year with the local conditions.
Robins eat a lot of fruit in fall and winter. When they eat honeysuckle berries exclusively, they sometimes become intoxicated.
Robin roosts can be huge, sometimes including a quarter-million birds during winter. In summer, females sleep at their nests and males gather at roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males. Female adults go to the roosts only after they have finished nesting.
Robins eat different types of food depending on the time of day: more earthworms in the morning and more fruit later in the day. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution.
The oldest recorded American Robin was 13 years and 11 months old.
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Going on outside our office window…