Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier in Flight

Northern Harrier
(Circus hudsonius)

Order:  Accipitriformes
Family:  Accipitridae

Photo © Birdiegal717 | Dreamstime

Northern Harrier Information

Length:  16 - 24"

Habitat:  In the Northeast: Freshwater marshes, saltwater marshes, wet meadows, sloughs, swamps, open fields. Requires open country for hunting.

Diet:  Mostly small mammals such as voles, mice, shrews; also small rabbits; small birds, reptiles, amphibians, large insects.

  Calls of the Northern Harrier

Additional Photos and Information

Northern Harrier
Description, habitat, behavior, diet, and nesting. Includes photos and range map. (From BirdWeb)

Photos of Northern Harrier
From Peter LaTourrette's Bird Photo Gallery

Northern Harrier in Flight - Female

© David Blevins

Northern Harrier
Identification Tips

  • Medium-sized, long-winged, long-tailed hawk
  • Rounded wings, can appear pointed while gliding
  • White rump
  • Short, dark, hooked beak
  • Often courses low over marshes and fields on wings held in a strong dihedral
  • Flat face with owl-like facial disk

Adult Male

  • Pale gray body plumage, paler on underparts
  • Darker gray head
  • Black tips to flight feathers, especially noticeable on the outer primaries
  • Narrow dark bars on tail

Adult Female

  • Buff underparts with darker streaks on breast, belly, and underwing coverts
  • Dark barring on flight feathers most visible from below
  • Dark patch on inner wing created by dark secondaries and dark secondary covert
  • Dark brown above
  • Narrow barring on tail

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

Breeding Bird Survey Map,

Northern Harrier Breeding Map

(Image credit: USGS)

Winter Map from eBird

Sightings of the Northern Harrier Nov-Mar over last 10 years