Northern Harrier Hunting And In Flight With Prey

I photographed this harrier hovering over prey and then flying off with the vole it caught immediately after.


1/1600, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Two years ago this month I encountered this Northern Harrier as I was driving home along the causeway to Antelope Island. When this shot was taken the hawk was just beginning to hover over prey in the dense vegetation below as indicated by the hyperextended wings, fanned tail and lowered head. I wish I had better light on the face but I do like the flight posture and the water colors in the background. The shoreline of the Great Salt Lake was actually at this approximate angle so I didn’t rotate the image to make it appear level which also would have put the bird at an unrealistic flight angle.

The harrier dove on the prey but the vegetation was so thick I couldn’t see the bird clearly on the ground.



1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

When it lifted off it had a vole in its right foot but it flew off exactly away from me so I only got butt shots at first. I like this photo mostly because of the good look at the vole.



1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

But eventually it turned to head west which gave me this peekaboo shot as it looked back at me under its wing. I don’t like the shadow across the face but at least I got light in the eye.

I rarely photograph harriers in flight with prey so I was happy to get these last two photos despite their obvious shortcomings and I think the bit of extraneous vegetation the hawk picked up with the vole actually adds interest.




29 comments to Northern Harrier Hunting And In Flight With Prey

  • Pam Skaar

    I like the shadow with the peek-a-boo eye. It reminds me of the way some of my friends use their veils to hide exactly where they are looking.

  • Simply superb, Ron!

    I was going to post shots of a Harrier from my New Mexico trip but now I have to throw them away…..

  • Marty K

    That is one chubby vole! It really looks like our feathered friend caught the vole mid-snack. 🙂

    That last shot where he’s checking you out is priceless!

  • Marina schultz

    😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭I want to take pictures like that😭😭😭😭😭

  • Alice Beckcom

    What a beautiful bird and a great shot. The vole looks mighty tasty!!
    Thanks for the great photos, Ron.

  • Patty Chadwick

    The angled shoreline and water add to the interest, too….great shots….

  • Kathy G

    Looks to me he’s asking you ‘Did you get that shot?’. Beautiful captures as usual. I’m beginning to think that is the only kind you get! ☺️ One has to love everything about the Harrier especially that face! We have them here in winter; I catch them as I’m searching for the ShortEar Owls and the Rough-legged Hawks…they all like cruising over the marshes for their prey. Somedays I’m lucky enough to get all three.

  • Porcupine

    Always surprises me how often raptors choose to take home a side salad with their meat order! Looking at that last shot it seems that this bird was paying at least some attention to you while hunting. Didn’t affect his results but he was watching you. Wonder if he views you as a threat, competition or just a wierd thing with a long eye. Nice shots of movement in the food chain!

    • Porcupine, Along the causeway the only place they can hunt is close to the road so it puts them close enough to vehicles that they’re wary of them so they keep a close eye on them (I was in my pickup).

  • Laura Culley

    As usual, lovely images! Again, when I try to pick a favorite, I just can’t. I love the hover flight and the flying-with-dinner flight. I’m SO easily amused.
    I love Harriers and they’re here, right in my neighborhood. They’re beautiful fancy fliers, but I’m not sure what they’re eating here. Cottontails and ground squirrels are available, although I’ve never actually seen the ground squirrels except as very occasional road kills. There are also bunches of various birds, including quail. Oh yeah, we’ve got field mice and Kangaroo rats (Cody, my Brittany, caught one the other day and brought it to me for hawk food). The Harriers are often out hunting a field where I take Jack (male HAHA). They ignore each other and go on about their businesses without any drama. Just realized, I mostly see them on windy days–the weather critters call it “breezy.” LOL!
    Again, thank you for beginning my day with beauty!

    • Laura, Our harriers seem to eat voles almost exclusively.

      • Laura Culley

        Interesting Ron. I’m sure if there were voles here, Jack would have found them since they’re tasty treats and he had great fun with them in NY! AND I’m certain if he’d have found them, he would head there first before hunting anything else. I gotta learn more about this new place, and every time we go out (NEARLY every day), I see more things to investigate.

  • sallie reynolds

    Oh, and I forgot to say the beginning shot is one of the most beautiful raptor photos I’ve ever seen.

  • sallie reynolds

    I love that last shot, where the bird sneaks a peek at you from under its wing.

  • Dick Harlow

    A nice fat vole for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Beautiful shots, fantastic color definition in the first shot! Well done!

  • Charlotte Norton

    Marvelous seriies Ron!


  • Diana

    Ron, thanks so much. Harriers intent on prey are wonderful to see, fr fme through your photos. And Judy, I think the role got the weed.

  • Judy Gusick

    Great shots of the action and vole even if not “perfect” 🙂 Don’t know if the harrier or the vole got the bit of weed! The hovering shot is so full of detail of the feathers and the “peekaboo” shot also shows the harrier well – keeping track of you it seems! 🙂 Snowing/blowing hard when we came from lunch yesterday and had 2 mature bald eagles cruising around at fairly low altitude along with the roughie that’s been around – fun to watch even if photos were out of the question. I wasn’t sure how the different birds would get along but think weather was a bigger concern to them than the others presense.

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