Northern Harrier Air Skating

Happy New Year

Northern Harrier

Fairfield, Iowa

Back and forth she flies, always looking down. Now and then she gives a little flap, like a skater pushing off with one foot, and glides as if riding on ice.

She flies close to the ground. Often within 5 to 10 feet above the grasses. That is why the vole probably doesn't see her until it's too late.

Suddenly she drops her feet down and snatches it out of the grass. It is a happy New Year's Day feast for the hawk. Not such good luck for the vole.

This is a hawk of open country. It lives mostly on small rodents, especially voles, which it finds in grassy areas.

Range Map by Cornell Lab

Range of the harrier

Northern Harriers live throughout North America, but they move between north and south according to the season. The Cornell Lab's range map shows orange where the species lives in summer. The winter range is in blue. Purple means year-around. Although the Northern Harrier lives in Iowa in every month, I most often find one on a bare winter day like this New Year's Day.

Viva la difference!

Northern Harrier

Adult male Northern Harriers look remarkably different from the females. If you were judging only by their coloration, you might think they were a different species entirely. The male has silvery-white underparts and a gray back. In my opinion he's more gorgeopus than the striped and brownish female. Both genders have a distinctive white rump.

What make this hawk recognizable at a distance and even in the drabbest of light are the long-tailed, supple-winged shape and the method of hunting by harrying the prey that is trying to hide on the ground. 

— Diane Porter, January 1, 2022