|photo by scotclose on Flickr|
When I enthusiastically pointed out a bird hovering over a meadow, her response was a noncommittal "Huh" (which I considered a step-up from the anticipated "Meh.")
Thwarted by her lack of interest, I'll share with you instead what I thought was so interesting about this Northern harrier. These birds are known to hover over their prey, but due to a fierce oncoming wind, this one was absolutely motionless, just hanging in the sky, as if it had been painted there.
A Northern harrier is one of those birds that can be recognized almost more by what it's doing than how it looks. Other hawks that hunt in grasslands and meadows are apt to swoop or stoop (dive) to the kill. But a harrier rarely flies higher than 7 feet above the ground; its wings are held in a slight V, its head is down.
There's a good reason for this technique: harriers listen for squeaks and rustles. Unlike others in their sharp-eyed hawk family, they rely more on their hearing than vision to locate prey. A "facial disk" (like that of owls) helps--the feathers around the harrier's eyes and beak create a concave surface, something like that of a satellite dish, which directs sound into the harrier's ears.
What do you think? Doesn't that deserve more than a huh or a meh?