Northern Harrier

Circus cyaneus

Order

FALCONIFORMES

Family

Kites, Eagles and Hawks (Accipitridae)

Code 4

NOHA

Code 6

CIRCYA

ITIS

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ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Northern Harrier has a large range, estimated globally at 1,000,000 to 10,000,000 square kilometers. Native to Europe, Asia, and the Americas and introduced to parts of Africa and Bermuda, this bird prefers grassland, wetland, forest, and shrubland ecosystems. The global population of this bird is estimated at 1,300,000 individuals and does not show signs of decline that would necessitate inclusion on the IUCN Red List. For this reason, the current evaluation status of the Northern Harrier is Least Concern.

IBIRD EXPLORER GENERAL

PHOTO SHARING AND DISCUSSION

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Northern Harrier: Large hawk with gray upperparts, distinct white rump, and white underparts with spotted breast. Hooked bill is dark, yellow at base. Eyes are yellow. Wings are long, gray above, and white below with black tips. Legs, feet are yellow. Alternates several deep wing beats with glides.


Range and Habitat

Northern Harrier: Breeds in North America from Alaska east to subarctic Newfoundland and Labrador and south to the northern states. Resident population across U.S. from Pacific Coast to the Great Lakes. Spends winters southwest and Pacific coast through Mexico and the West Indies to Central America. Preferred habitats include open fields, savannas, meadows, and marshes.

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SONGS AND CALLS

Voice Text

"kek, kek, kek", "keee, keee, keee"

INTERESTING FACTS

  • The common name, Harrier, is from the Old English word “herigan” and means to harass or plunder.
  • Their species name, Circus cyanus, comes from the Greek word “kirkos”, meaning circle and the word “cyan” which is a shade of blue. These refer to the Northern Harrier’s flight pattern while hunting and the color of the male bird.
  • Unusual among hawks, Northern Harriers use their sense of hearing to help locate prey. They have an owl-like facial disk to help with directional hearing and soft feathers for a quieter flight.
  • A group of harriers has many collective nouns, including a "swarm" and a "harassment" of harriers.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP

CERange Map for Northern Harrier

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

HELP ME IDENTIFY A BIRD

BACKYARD BIRDING

BIRDS AND BIRDING

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UnderpartsX
Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.
UpperpartsX
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
BreastX
The upper front part of a bird.
RumpX
The area between the uppertail coverts and the back of the bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X