Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers

During several trips this winter to the shores of the Puget Sound where the Stillaguamish and Skagit rivers drain into the sea, I encountered two species of predatory birds sharing some remarkably similar hunting habits. The Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)) and Northern harrier (Circus cyaneus) are both medium sized raptors. Of the two, the short-eared owl stands out as a bit of an oddity--being diurnal in its habits, unusual for owls, the rest of which are night hunters. The graceful and quavering flight patterns of both species are mesmerizing to watch.

Female Northern Harrier in flight. Puget Sound, Washington.

Female Northern harrier, perched. Puget Sound, Washington

Northern harriers fly low over grasslands and wetlands attempting to locate and surprise voles and other small mammals at close range.

Sharing the same fields and tidal marshes, Short-eared owls can also be found out during the day hunting small mammals and occasionally song birds.

Short-eared owl in flight. Puget Sound, Washington.

Short-eared owl, perched. Puget Sound, Washington

See more photos of these two species in my photography galleries.