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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

A Couple of "Juve's" - Spotted Harrier and Brown Goshawk

It is always exciting to see new life exploring the world. In the birding world, that can be a chick fledging from a nest or hollow, or starting their new life as a hunter, making mistake after mistake until they finally start to succeed more often.

I watched as a young Brown Goshawk flew in to a group of Zebra Finches on a leafless bush near a water hole time after time, failing to grab any of the fleeing Finches. It would then sit in the bush, seemingly confused why it wasn't munching on some tasty bird. A few times it would even get its wings caught in the twigs of the bush, before flapping off to a nearby perch. It swooped from 30 metres from the cover of a stand of trees across the dam to the water's edge, again without success. It would then perch under the large tree the finches and budgies were using as a launching pad to fly down for a drink, not a particularly inconspicuous place. Ultimately it decided to fly off and catch some of the larger grasshoppers around.

The Spotted Harrier then replaced the Goshawk, and the difference in the speed is marked. The Harrier looks like it had been chewing on the wrong sort of weed for the morning, slow, laboured wingbeats, skinny long legs, and even though it didn't seem to be hunting the same prey, looked as if it was a few months behind the Goshawk as far as life skills was concerned.

Both birds had the weird and almost spooky head turn of 360 degrees the lots of birds seem to have. But in flight and close-up, it would be appropriate in a horror film, like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, rather than the wonder of nature. Lucky it wasn't a cloudy day just before dusk!

These two young birds need to be one the lookout, as other birds of prey are in the same area. Over a few visits, I have seen Grey Falcon, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Little Eagle, Brown Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel, and both Whistling and Black Kites. The two Eagles would probably be the biggest threats to the two juveniles, especially if they managed to be eating some prey more to the Eagles' liking. So I was on the lookout myself for the other birds of prey after observing the constant head swivels. On this occasion, these were the only two in the immediate vicinity.

Birds of prey are definitely some of my favourite birds, probably because of their size and ease of narrowing down what type they are. And Spotted Harriers are always a delight to try to photograph, generally because of their relative slowness compared to some of the other birds of prey. Below are a few shots from my time with the "two Juve's".

Spotted Harrier

Brown Goshawk


  1. Some excellent behaviour to note and brilliant pictures, Richard. I can't imagine either of those raptors getting much of a feed from a Zebra finch. Pretty much just good practice for them.

    1. Thanks Russell. I don't think the Harrier was even having a go at the Zebs. More looking for a drink. My son and I were standing well back from the dam, waiting for the non-appearing Grey Falcon, and the Harrier was looking for a drink, but very gawky like a teenager who wasn't as yet comfortable with its growing body. The Goshawk really was hysterical, hadn't quite got the "stealth" mode worked out at all, coming across the dam in full view, time after time. My son and I were actually laughing at one stage as we couldn't believe it would try something so obvious for such a normally stealthy species.