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Food Drop for Young Harrier

July 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Northern Harrier parents have an unusual method for feeding their young:  As soon as the birds are able to leave the nest, the parents entice the young birds to fly by tempting them with food from above. A parent will dangle a small mammal from its talons, and the young birds will soon learn to fly up to grab the prey just as the parent drops it.  At first, the young birds refuse to fly up for their food, and the parents relent by delivering the meal directly to them on the ground. But as the fledglings get stronger, they soon learn that they can get fed before their siblings if they take a more aggressive approach and grab the food from their parent as it flies above.

In the photo below, a female Northern Harrier flies in with a small rabbit to feed to one of her young:

Female Northern Harrier flies in with a small rabbit to feed to one of her young.

One of her three fledglings (which are as large as the parent when they leave the nest) flies up from the marsh to claim its meal:

Northern Harrier food exchange; parent drops rabbit for fledgling to catchOne of her three fledglings flies up from the marsh to claim its meal.

The mother drops the rabbit for her offspring to catch:

Northern Harrier food exchange; parent drops rabbit for fledgling to catchThe mother drops the rabbit for her offspring to catch.

The fledgling scrambles to get into position to catch the falling rabbit:

Northern Harrier food exchange; parent drops rabbit for fledgling to catchThe fledgling scrambles to get into position to catch the rabbit.

The young bird has a bead on its prey, and is in position to make the grab:

Northern Harrier food exchange; parent drops rabbit for fledgling to catchThe young bird has a bead on its prey, and is in position to make the grab.

Alas, the catch is executed imperfectly ...

Northern Harrier food exchange; parent drops rabbit for fledgling to catchAlas, the catch is executed imperfectly ...

... and the meal falls to the ground:

Northern Harrier food exchange; parent drops rabbit for fledgling to catch... and the meal falls to the ground.
But not to worry -- it was easily retrieved by the young bird and taken to a protected area for consumption.

But not to worry -- the rabbit was easily retrieved by the young bird and taken to a protected area for consumption.

 

 

 

 

 


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