Nature & You: These wind-loving hawks have made their annual return
These wind-loving hawks have made their annual return
The circus is back in town.
Go ye not in search of huge, colorful tents and tiny automobiles that are filled to overflowing with painted-face clowns.
Travel, instead, to any large expanse of open meadow that has a sufficient amount of thick grass on it in order to support a healthy population of field mice. That is where you will find the circus.
This circus has feathers.
Of what I speak is a type of hawk called the northern harrier. A portion of the bird's scientific name is the word: circus. The Latin word root refers to the seemingly effortless aerial antics of this bird of the grassland skies.
When I go in search of this beautiful bird, I like to make a game of it. The challenge is to find an adult male northern harrier. The immature males are covered in brown-colored feathers, as are the females of this species. Only a very small number of the northern harriers that you will see will be the mature males. It is a game that is well worth playing; your reward is to feast your eyes on the elegant slate-gray plumage of the no-longer-an-adolescent male northern harrier. They are a striking bird to witness.
Each mature male northern harrier presides over a harem of females, hence the scarcity of the older males.
The odds of you actually being able to find one of the mature male northern harriers is not going to be in your favor. Worry not. You can console yourself by watching the flying skills that are exhibited by the brown-plumaged northern harriers; that in and of itself will fill you with much joy.
Those few people who do not derive pleasure from watching hawks fly are doomed to becoming couch potatoes in front of glowing television screens. Don't let that terrible fate befall you.
— Neil Garrison, NewsOK Contributor
Neil Garrison was the longtime naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center.