[CT Birds] "Gray Ghosts"

Mntncougar at aol.com Mntncougar at aol.com
Sun Dec 27 21:15:30 EST 2015

One reason such a small percentage of N. Harriers seen are Gray  Ghosts is 
that they are all ADULT males. As far as I know, all juvenile  Harriers look 
pretty much alike, M and F. The juveniles look very similar  to, though not 
exactly the same as, adult females. If the breast and  belly  area is a 
sort of   "glowing" red in sunlight it is  probably a juvenile.
In the fall at Lighthouse point, I'd guess that three out of  every 5 
Harriers which are NOT adult males are juveniles. So, if 50 percent of  all the 
birds are females, juv and adult,  are females (probably not  accurate, I 
would guess there are many more females to begin with) you end up  with a 
relatively low number of adult males.
The apparent number of Gray Ghosts seems to vary widely from  year to year, 
but one thing seems to be true. The majority of them come through  in a 
relatively short period of time. This past fall they were late, but I'm not  
sure that is always true. Seems to me they were early the year  before.
All of that being said, it does sometimes seem that seeing a  Gray Ghost is 
a relatively rare occurrence. Yesterday in Wallkill, NY,  (searching for 
the Gyr) there were quite a few Harriers in the Grasslands area,  and to my 
eye, all were adult females, although it was cloudy and the light was  poor. 
In any event, certainly no Gray Ghosts.
Lots of Short-eared Owls in the same area, by the way; 6 or  more hunting 
the same area late in the afternoon, and the Harriers sometimes  tried to 
steal prey from them.
"I was just reading a piece about Northern  Harriers and it started me 
wondering. Why are the "grey ghosts" so uncommonly  seen here? I have seen lots 
of harriers but never the male grey. One would think  that there would be a 
more even split between sightings of the brown females and  the grey males. 
Any input?


Don Morgan, Coventry,  Ct.
mntncougar at aol.com

More information about the CTBirds mailing list