The Northern Harrier is categorized in a bird family all its own because of its unique habits and body structure. Unlike other hawks, they hunt from sound, as well as sight and have stiff facial bristles, similar to owls, to help conduct sound.
Besides appearing enormous because of their slender bodies and 40-46 inch wing span (102-118 cm), these birds are amazing acrobats, able to hover in place to hone in on their prey. The duration of this hovering is unique to Northern Harriers and the American Kestrel in North America.
Because they breed in northern states and are just arriving on wintering grounds in east Tennessee, placing this bird in this painting this time of year presented me with a challenge. But I am always encouraged by the amount of information that gets stored away in our memories while we are observing nature. And even more amazing, it's ready to be retrieved and guide us when we need it!
To see more of my explorations while creating this painting visit: Northern Harrier Hunting at Vickie's Sketchbook. More information about the Northern Harrier can be found at Cornell's "All About" page.