Posted by: atowhee | June 15, 2014


Northern Harriers get their name from their hunting method, flying low over the ground and plant growth to harry prey into moving. The Harrier uses its keen ears to locate prey that is sometimes unseen until caught. But harrying is not the privilege of raptor alone. Mobbing or chasing one’s enemy is found widely in the avian world. These pictures from Malheur show Harriers being harried themselves:HARRIED
On the right hand side of the frame, 3 Black Terns hawking insects, ignoring the aerial combat passing them by. If they were nesting nearby, they, too, would be after the Harrier.
The first two pictures were taken at Buena Vista Ponds. The next two were taken at P Ranch east of Frenchglen.

In each case it was either as Brewer’s or Red-winged Blackbird on the attack. The Icterid bird family is notorious for attacking any creature that appears to threaten a nest. I’ve been plunked on the head more than once by a defensive blackbird.

One theory of mobbing is that it is less aimed at driving the enemy from the field and more aimed at saying to a predator. “Here I am. I see you.” Few predators will attack a target that is clearly watching said predator.
That said, at Benson Pond our GGAS Malheur trip watched a pair of Trumpeter Swans drive a White Pelican from the pond. The swans were protecting their two cygnets. Also we watched a Long-billed Curlew drive off a Swainson’s Hawk that ventured onto the Curlew’s nesting grounds near Dry Lake Reservoir.
Here is a family of Sandhill Cranes harassed in a field along Greenhouse Lane south of Burns:CRANES X4b
In my own Ashland garden this morning I witnessed the classic mobbing, not in defense of any apparent nest site. I was quietly reading when the local jays made it impossible. Screaming Steller’s are hard to ignore. This time they were even joined by the bully Scrub-Jays that normally drive off the other jays. This time they were focused on a common enemy. It turned out to be the local Screech-Owl, roosting in our cedar. The jays eventually drove him from the yard and then from his second perch across the street in the park. Here huddles the harried little owl:P2040939

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