Harrier Eye Color

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Monday, December 9, 2013 

Someone asked me if adult female Northern Harriers have a plumage that coincides with their eye color. In other words, do yellow-eyed adults look different than darker-eyed adults? And the short answer is no, adult females can look rufous washed underneath, buffy washed, heavily streaked, or lightly streaked, at any age of their adulthood (or with any eye color), below is a few examples ("click" on images to enlarge). 

And, it takes a few years for females to get the lemon-yellow eye that adult males have. Is it possible that a certain plumage is more common than another -- of course, but that is irrelevant to this issue. Thanks for the questions and hope I can answer them as they comeā€¦
 Light brown eye, buffy body
 Dark brown eye, buffy body
 Yellow eye, orange-buffy body
 Pale brown eye, buffy body
 Dark brown eye, buffy body
 Brown eye, buffy-orange body
 Pale brown eye, buffy body
 Pale brown eye, buffy-orange body
 Yellow eye, buffy body
 Dark yellow eye, buffy-orange body
 Pale brown eye, buffy body
Yellow eye, orangey body
 Yellow eye, orangey body
 Yellow eye, orangey body
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good information, and a nice collection of Harriers to revisit when needed. Thank you Jerry

December 10, 2013 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Thank you, always like to hear feedback

December 10, 2013 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger Bryce said...

Definitely a useful post. Thanks for posting so many photos. I bet you have the largest harrier photo collection out of anyone. Love to see it.

December 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

I do have thousands of flight shots. But more interesting to you Bryce is I have a lot of in-hand birds too, caught 16 adult males in ONE DAY in 1996 at Braddock Bay, so my collection is huge, but who knows about the most?

December 10, 2013 at 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Sandy Laslow said...

Neat pictures, I was unaware of this female variability, and enjoyed your Birding article on the adult males. Can you make a post about the juvenile plumages Jerry?

December 10, 2013 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Thank you Sandy -- I'll post about juveniles soon.

December 10, 2013 at 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Neat, I haven't seen those orange breasted females here in CT. I know I would have called those juveniles if they went overhead at my hawkwatch (Lighthouse Point). Is that a Western thing?

December 11, 2013 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Yes, a Western thing for the most part, but not completely. I've blogged about it but not sure when. A search of my blog in the search tool will probably bring it up

December 11, 2013 at 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Hatem Gomaa said...

That one photo of the bird banking to the right with it's mouth open and the tip of its primaries just skimming the water is great! That would be a heck of a poster, even for guys like me who don't care too much about harriers.

December 13, 2013 at 12:39 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Thanks Hatem

I like that one too.

December 13, 2013 at 7:30 AM  

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