Harriers at Kern NWR

August 4, 2015 at 7:13 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Male Harrier in a dive

Male Harrier in a dive

At the end of January I visited the Kern National Wildlife Refuge near Bakersfield, California.  I saw a male northern harrier doing many swoops and dives, and I assumed he was displaying for a female who may have been perched on a tree.


Sometimes he would break away as if hunting for a rodent, flying low over the grassy fields as harriers do.


Then he would resume his aerial courtship dance.  They are known for “elaborate flying barrel rolls to court females,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.





He would even call out with high-pitched chatter during his dives.



In addition to the white rump patch, and the habit of flying low over marshes and fields, their owlish faces are another indicator that this hawk is a northern harrier.





After about 20 minutes, a female showed up.

Female northern harrier

Female northern harrier

Females are browner and larger than the males.  She didn’t seem too impressed and went about her business of looking for prey.

White-tailed kite

White-tailed kite

The white-tailed kite is a life bird for me.  Several were soaring and roosting in bare trees.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

The Savannah sparrows were remarkably pretty with their yellow-washed faces.


I continued my trip to the coast, and meant to return soon.  It’s still on my list.

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com


  1. Jet Eliot said,

    Your photos here are delightful Cindy. You captured the barrel rolling well, something I did not know about northern harriers, this truly gorgeous bird. And a great shot of the white-tailed kite, too, and how fun that it is a lifer! Great post.

    • Cindy McIntyre said,

      Thanks Jet! I’ve picked up a lot of lifers in California. I am truly fortunate that I’ve been able to live all over the country in some of America’s most beautiful places!

  2. mbkircus said,

    Lovely pictures. But can’t believe you never saw a white-tailed kite while in S. Texas. They are one of my favorite wintering birds.

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