[Tweeters] Colorful Raptors

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Tue Oct 15 20:52:12 PDT 2013

This morning I was parked for a bit along the Snohomish River Road, just outside the Everett City Limits. Just across the road I noted a bird fly down from some cottonwood trees, into the grass below, and back up into the tree. The second time this happened, I checked it out - a bright male Kestrel. It went back down into the grass several more times, nabbing something each time, something small, which I figured was most likely grasshoppers, which are still active along the road when the sun is out. If I'd had more time, and a net, I might have tryed nabbing some of them bugs myself for my ongoing experiments in bug eating.

For a bird the size of a Kestrel, a fair-sized grasshopper is a pretty good chunk of protein. After eating some bugs, the Kestrel pestered some Killdeers in nearby field - easily keeping pace with them, and seemingly just goofing off.

I think of a male Kestrel as Mister Beautiful - about the most colorful raptor around, with their bright rust and blue-grey.

That notion was put to the test later in the afternoon when I walked out to Spencer Island for the first time in months, as it has been closed off. Pretty quiet on the island, the tide very high. Out in the middle of the marsh a Blue Heron was parked, and fairly near it a bright colored raptor was perched. I was thinking it was one of the more colorful morphs of a Red-tailed Hawk or something, but the closer I got, the brighter it looked.

Walking the cross dike, I was getting fairly close, and colorwise, the bird looked a lot like a giant male Varied Thrush - orange and black - pretty bright colors! "What the heck is this thing?" I was really starting to wonder. Luckily, the bird took wing and came my way - a Northern Harrier. Back at the truck, checking out Sibley, it mentions the immature birds being orange-ish below. But this bird was amazingly bright, the tail markings also particularly striking. Two other Harriers then flew by behind this bird, which was a nice reality check to what I was seeing. The "black" was an exceptionaly dark cap, and also the neck - the face standing out as orange,as well as the underparts of the bird.

I've seen a lot of Harriers over the years, but never one so bright. Pretty cool.

Jeff Gibson

Everett Wa

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