Harrier is a common raptor of open wetlands, fresh and saltwater
marshes, meadows and upland grasslands. Its long tail, white rump
and low relaxed flight are distinctive.
In Europe and
Asia it is called the Hen Harrier or Marsh Hawk. This species is
widespread, breeding throughout North America and Eurasia. It is
widely but locally distributed in North America (primarily south of
tundra) when breeding. It winters in parts of the U.S., the pacific
coast of B.C., Mexico, Central America and parts of the Caribbean.
A slim, long tailed, long legged hawk, which is strongly sexually
dimorphic. Females are much larger than males. The white patch on
the uppertail coverts is diagnostic along with its distinct facial
disk. Length: 41-50cm. Wingspan: 97-122cm. Weight: Male 346g,
Dark gray head, back, breast, upperwing coverts and uppertail.
Distinct facial disk. From below appears overall white with dark
gray head and neck with black tips on primaries and secondaries
forming a black band on trailing edges of wings. The rump is white
and clearly visible in flight. Eyes are yellow.
Dark brown head, which gives a hooded look, especially in flight.
Distinct facial disk. Back and upperwing coverts are brownish.
Buffy underparts are heavily streaked dark brown. From below there
are noticeable white bands through secondaries and the long tail
shows even-width dark and light bands when spread. Rump is white and
clearly visible in flight. Eyes are yellow.
Similar to adult females but have rufous underparts with dark
streaking on upper breast and sides. By spring, colour of
underparts fades to creamy. Eyes are dark brown on female juveniles
and pale gray-brown on male juveniles.
Harrier can be mistaken for many other raptors. However, its long
tail distinguishes it from shorter tailed falcons. Its slender body
also distinguishes it from heavier bodied hawks like the
Rough-legged Hawk. And, its distinctive flight, white rump and
facial disk are keys to identification.
Flies low over marshes and fields while hunting with languid, heavy
wing beats. Wing beats are followed by a short glide, with wings
held in a strong dihedral and teetering from side to side. Drops
quickly on prey in grasses or marsh.
stumps and fence posts and occasionally the ground. Eats rodents,
small birds, insects, and snakes.
Open wetlands, fresh and brackish marshes, grasslands, tundra and
Harrier is a specialized ‘mouser’ in tall vegetation. It catches
prey by sound as well as sight. Its owl like facial disk of facial
feathers may function to help locate sounds.
roost communally on the ground when not breeding.
Nest is a
platform of sticks and grasses lined with fine materials placed
above water or on a knoll on the ground. 3-9 eggs of bluish white,
sometimes with dark marks, are laid.
wetland and undisturbed grassland habitat is causing concern but is
presently classified as of “least concern”.
An infrequent but not rare sighting at Colony Farm, the
Northern Harrier uses the open grasslands of the park to
hunt. Low capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds
captured per 100 net hours) are indicative of the infrequent
visits to the banding area.