Teetering and gliding not far above the ground, this Northern Harrier - formerly called a Marsh Hawk - scans the marsh grass for voles. If you return to the marsh at night, the harrier will be gone, and it's a Barn Owl you might see, also hunting voles. Although one's a hawk and the other an owl, the two have a lot in common - more than their taste for tiny, furry creatures. For instance, both can hunt by sound, rather than sight, as most birds do. Learn more at Cornell Lab's AllAboutBirds.org.
Northern Harrier and Barn Owl
Written by Ellen Blackstone
This is BirdNote!
[Kek-kek-kek of Northern Harrier]
Visit a marsh on a winter’s day, and one of the first birds you’re likely to see is the one making these sounds, a Northern Harrier. Teetering and gliding not far above the ground, this hawk scans the marsh grass for voles. If you return to the marsh at night, the harrier will be gone, but it’s a Barn Owl you might see, also hunting voles.
[Barn Owl’s k.e.e.e.r.r.r.]
Although one bird is a hawk and the other an owl, the two have a lot in common—more than their taste for tiny, furry creatures. Both have almost heart-shaped frames around their faces. These frames—known as “facial disks”—allow the birds to hunt by sound, rather than by sight, as most birds do.
Back in the marsh, the grayish back of the male Northern Harrier makes him look almost ghostly as he swoops through the morning fog. Watch for the white rump, flickering as the bird teeters and glides, now dipping behind a rise and then tracing a ridge of land. [Kek-kek-kek]
By the light of a full moon, watch for the eerie face of the Barn Owl, peering through the night.
And be glad you aren’t a vole.
For BirdNote, I’m Frank Corrado.
Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Northern Harrier recorded by M.J. Anderson. Barn Owl recorded by P.P. Kellogg.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2007 Tune In to Nature.org Revised for 2009