chantedsnicker's picture

Possible Hen Harrier

Observed: 26th February 2012 By: chantedsnicker
S159 Neighbourhood Nature - course complete
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Unfortunately didn't have my camera or a pair of binoculars handy though we turned the car round and went back to get a proper look. Didn't want to pose for us, so IDied from memory and process of elimination.

Species interactions

No interactions present.


DavidHowdon's picture


I don't think there is enough in your field notes to allow agreement with this ID.

David Howdon

chantedsnicker's picture

No, sadly not. Though perhaps

No, sadly not. Though perhaps you could suggest what additional information would be useful in these situations? I'm relatively new to this so it would be good if there were some specific features I could look out for. I'm annoyed I didn't note the tail shape.

DavidHowdon's picture

As much as possible... the short answer.

A few specific things.
What was the pattern on the breast? What shape was the tail? What pattern of bars occured on the tail? What was the pattern the secondary coverts? How many 'fingers' (distinct feathers on the wing tip in flight) did it have? What colour were the upper-tail coverts?

Worth getting something like the Collin's Bird Guide or some other guide which has a lot of text about the bird's features and sets out the sort of features you need to look for. Knowing what to observe on an unknown bird gets easier with practice (although I still regularly fail to ID stuff despite having been doing this for years).

A really good, but rather specialist, book is Nils Van Duivendijk's "Advanced Bird ID Guide: The Western Palearctic" which has no pictures but very good text descriptions of the features of a bird. But I'd not bother getting that until you feel a lot more experienced.

David Howdon

jcs487's picture

Possible Hen Harrier.

A good basic guide to use is a Collins nature guide. Birds of Britain and Europe.
As far as your sighting goes, based on my knowledge of birds in Hertfordshire i would suggest the common Buzzard Buteo buteo to be a more likely candidate.

bobthebirder's picture

harrier v buzzard

The one definite "clinching" factor is did it have a white rump? Female hen harriers always show a bright white rump whereas buzzards never do, although they can have white on the tail sometimes. Not much use if the bird is overhead though.

Bob Ford

chantedsnicker's picture

Thanks very much for all your

Thanks very much for all your helpful comments, I have now obtained a copy of the Collins Bird guide and have found it to be very useful.

I guess I'll never know if this was a hen harrier - Having spoken to some keen bird-watchers in the area they seem to think it was possible having seen them in the area previously. I definitely didn't see any white on the bird though or I would have remembered that.

At least I know some of the things to look out for, I can only get better in my identifications.