Spotlight on Species: Northern Harrier

Spotlight on Species

Northern Harrier – Winter Migrant

This slim, long-winged hawk has got the cool factor big time – a
favorite for raptor-hounds. Commonly seen coursing over wetlands,
agricultural and grassland areas in buoyant slow flight using soft
feathers for quieter flight and an owlish face to help locate prey by
sound. White rump patch distinctive field mark and if lucky, you may
see the “gray ghost” male!

Breeding: The only hawk to practice polygyny, males can have as
many as five mates at once, providing most of the food for his mates
and their offspring while females incubate and brood the chicks.

Diet: small mammals, birds, frogs, reptiles, insects and capable of
bigger prey like rabbits and ducks. May subdue large prey by
drowning them.

Nest: primarily in wetlands, nest is flimsy, slightly elevated on
ground or thick vegetation of sticks and grass loosely lined with
fine materials. 1 brood; clutch 4-6 eggs.

Cool facts: Northern Harrier fossils dating from 11,000 to 40,000
years ago have been unearthed in northern Mexico. A group of
harriers is known as a “harassment” of harriers.

Contributed by: Lisa Grubbs