This observation began when a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk caught my eye. This young bird was distinctly colored, and much darker than the typical Red-tailed Hawk. Red-tailed Hawks with this unusual coloration are also known as Harlan’s Hawks. You don’t see one everyday, that is for sure.

I spotted the juvenile Harlan’s Hawk as he sat perched atop a telephone pole just outside of the old fish hatchery in the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA). As I watched, I was surprised to see a male Northern Harrier zoom by the young hawk in what at first appeared to be an aggressive maneuver.

The Red-tailed Hawk took to the air in response to the disturbance, and the Northern Harrier circled around to re-engage. I had no idea what to expect.

The Harlan’s Hawk shortly after taking to the air.

As the Harlan’s Hawk gained altitude, the Northern Harrier approached him from behind, calling out all the way. The pair formed up shortly afterwards and flew together for most of the way from the fish hatchery to the spillway. The engagement no longer seemed obviously contentious.

The Northern Harrier approaches the juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.
Soon the Northern Harrier took the lead and the Harlan’s Hawk began to follow.
A male Northern Harrier and a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk flying together.
The Northern Harrier frequently called out to the Red-tailed Hawk.

Once at the river, the two birds split up and went their separate ways. The Red-tailed Hawk headed down the river, and the Northern Harrier returned to the dam.

I’m still not sure how best to explain this behavior.

After disengaging from the Red-tailed Hawk, the Northern Harrier returned to the dam and started skimming the top of the dam.
On his way back the Northern Harrier flew by my position at relatively close range.

Observation Details

County Denton
City Lewisville
Date Nov 18, 2012
Time of Day Noon
Temperature Cool (50-69°F/10-21°C)
Weather Overcast
Habitat Recreation-Park
Type of Behavior Interacting
Gender Male
Maturity Adult
Observer Chris Jackson
Main Article Northern Harrier Observation Location

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