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.
Earlier this winter, I was in the kitchen working on supper. I could hear the little’s playing in the living room when I heard a huge bang with glass shattering. Of course the first thing that pops into this mamma’s head is that someone fell through the window. So I run into the living room and see all the little’s sitting with stunned looks on their faces and then I look around to see what broke. Then something brown on the porch caught my attention as it jumped up and then ran away. It was a wild turkey and she had apparently tried to fly through one of our large windows. She managed to break the outside pane of the window, she herself seemed to be a bit dazed but managed to fly away.
Fast forward to last week, when once again I hear a large thud against a window. Thankfully, no shattering glass this time though! The kids were doing school work out there and yelled at me to grab my camera and come look at what hit the other large glass window in the living room…
I believe he is a Cooper’s Hawk.
Dashing through vegetation to catch birds is a dangerous lifestyle. In a study of more than 300 Cooper’s Hawk skeletons, 23 percent showed old, healed-over fractures in the bones of the chest, especially of the furcula, or wishbone.
A Cooper’s Hawk captures a bird with its feet and kills it by repeated squeezing. Falcons tend to kill their prey by biting it, but Cooper’s Hawks hold their catch away from the body until it dies. They’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.
Once thought averse to towns and cities, Cooper’s Hawks are now fairly common urban and suburban birds. Some studies show their numbers are actually higher in towns than in their natural habitat, forests. Cities provide plenty of Rock Pigeon and Mourning Dove prey. Though one study in Arizona found a downside to the high-dove diet: Cooper’s Hawk nestlings suffered from a parasitic disease they acquired from eating dove meat.
Life is tricky for male Cooper’s Hawks. As in most hawks, males are significantly smaller than their mates. The danger is that female Cooper’s Hawks specialize in eating medium-sized birds. Males tend to be submissive to females and to listen out for reassuring call notes the females make when they’re willing to be approached. Males build the nest, then provide nearly all the food to females and young over the next 90 days before the young fledge.
The oldest known Cooper’s Hawk was 20 years, 4 months old.
After getting over the initial shock of hitting the window, he eventually took off. Poor guy! On occasion we have had a few small birds hit our windows, but these bigger birds are quite surprising when they do!
We had a blizzard warning for this past weekend, mixed with high winds and dangerously low wind chills. -20 to -30 below zero, brrrrr!
My wonderful husband was the one to venture out and do chores and keep our road from drifting shut and the neighbors plowed our this weekend. He had came inside to warm up for a minute and decided he needed a kiss. Umm, no thanks honey, I’ll wait until you thaw out!
He also spotted this hawk hunkered down in the storm. At first we weren’t sure what type of a bird it was…
Only 17 more days until Spring, right?!
I can’t wait for warmer days and to enjoy Montana’s wild flowers again…