Juvenile Harrier eyes

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 

In regards to Harrier eye color and plumages, I was asked about juveniles, so I thought I'd put up some pics to show the differences. First of all, it has been proposed or talked about for years that juvenile males and females have a slight difference in plumage, but for the most part this is not true. The plumages overlap greatly; there might be a slight difference on average, but it is unreliable to sex juveniles based on body plumage alone. I won't even say what those differences could be, because it would be misleading more than helpful to the birding community, and too often I hear field marks perpetuated that are absolutely false (another post I should write). Here is a link to the post I am referring:

Anyway, juvenile males have yellowish eyes, and juvenile females have brown eyes. Sometimes, juvenile males show a bluish-yellow eye, or even brownish-yellow. Hawk banders know this stuff. Here are some examples below that will help you identify photos of juveniles, of course, noting eye color in the field can be extremely difficult. And remember, fairly streaked juvenile males with yellow eyes can be confused for adult females, so check your photos!
  Juvenile Female
Juvenile Female
  Juvenile Male
  Juvenile Male
Blogger Mia McPherson said...

Brilliant images Jerry, I admit I have had some confusion over the eye color of harriers and sexing juveniles. I just don't do it!

December 11, 2013 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Hi Mia...thanks

Eye color is the best way (and really only way unless in hand measurements can be taken). People have argued that the underside plumage differs between male and female juveniles, but its just way too overlapping to say that.

I have a few tricks otherwise to sex juvs in the field but that's not appropriate to this post.

December 11, 2013 at 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Ron Dudley said...

I'm with Mia (in more ways than one...), I've had troubles with this for years so I mostly avoid referencing gender of harriers unless it's obviously an adult male or female. Very helpful, Jerry - thank you!

December 11, 2013 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Bryce said...

Great post! Its great to see how bright the juvenile male eyes can be, like your last photo. Good stuff Jerry!

December 11, 2013 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Thanks Bryce and Ron -- I love blogging!

And this was something I learned long ago (1980's) from just being around knowledgeable people, not something I found out on my own. Actually, as Bryce has said a million times to me (that I have a photographic memory), I do remember exactly who showed this to me, It was my birding mentor John Rokita, when we had a Harrier come in to the rehab center for birds in fall of 1987.

December 11, 2013 at 5:49 PM  

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