The Northern Harrier is a slim, long-tailed hawk gliding low over grasslands or fields with a white patch at the base of its tail. The males are gray-and-white and the females are brown and larger. It has an owl-like face that helps it hear mice and voles beneath the vegetation. Northern Harriers hunt mostly small mammals (95%) and small birds.
The eye color of both sexes changes gradually to lemon yellow by the time they reach adulthood.
The Northern Harrier has the longest wingspan and tail relative to its body size of any raptor occurring in North America.
They are one of the few raptors known to practice polygyny, in which one male mates with several females. Up to five females have been known to mate with one male in a season.
Northern Harrier: Length: 16–20 inches. Wingspan: 38–48 inches. Average Weight: Male 12 ounces, Female 19 ounces.
The American Goldfinch is a small finch with a short, conical bill and a small head, long wings, and short, notched tail.
Adult males in spring and early summer are bright yellow with black forehead, black wings with white markings. Adult females are duller yellow beneath, olive above.
Goldfinches are among the strictest vegetarians, selecting an entirely vegetable diet and only inadvertently swallowing an insect.
Goldfinches are easy to find throughout North America, except in deep forests. They are most abundant in areas with thistle plants or near bird feeders.
American Goldfinch: Length: 4.3–5.5 inches. Wingspan: 7.5–8.7 inches. Weigh: 0.4–0.7 ounces.
This column is generously donated by George Ho.
Bird Walks July 2 & August 6. Two options: 7:30–10am or 8–10am (choose a 2-hour or a 2.5-hour walk.) Both walks are free but you must RSVP at www.blufflake.org/birdwatching. All are welcome. Bring your own binoculars, or use one of their pairs. 11255 MLK Blvd. Search FrontPorchNE.com for “Bird Sightings” to see all the past bird stories and photos from George Ho.