A juvenile female Northern Harrier – The eyes have it

Female juvenile Northern Harrier flyingFemale juvenile Northern Harrier flying – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 235mm, natural light, not baited

A few days ago my friend Jerry Liguori posted an article on his blog called “Juvenile Harrier eyes” where he discussed the eye colors of juvenile males and females and briefly touched on the differences in their plumage.  I have been hesitant to ID juvenile harriers because I don’t really relish being wrong. On his post I made this comment:

Brilliant images Jerry, I admit I have had some confusion over the eye color of harriers and sexing juveniles. I just don’t do it!

Female juvenile Northern Harrier in flightFemale juvenile Northern Harrier in flight - Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 214mm, natural light, not baited

So… I am sticking my neck out here and identifying this Northern Harrier as a juvenile female and if I am wrong please don’t hesitate to tell me so. Being wrong and studying the differences more carefully is a way to learn and I do want to learn to feel confident more about identifying juvenile harriers.

When I spotted this harrier she was on the top of a creek bank and I wasn’t sure why she kept circling over the same area. After photographing her for a period of time in flight she landed on a post down the road for a bit. I was reviewing my images on my LCD screen and when I looked up the harrier had left the post and then I saw her down on the frozen creek with a dead duck (I am fairly sure about that) and knew why she had kept flying over the same spot. I’d love to know if she killed the duck or if another raptor killed it.

Eye color can be used to sex juvenile Northern Harriers, brown for juvenile females and yellowish for the males and this harrier is a definite brown-eyed beauty.

Mia

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