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Northern Harrier

Silhouette HarriersHarriers
Northern HarrierCircus hudsonius
  • ORDER: Accipitriformes
  • FAMILY: Accipitridae

Basic Description

The Northern Harrier is distinctive from a long distance away: a slim, long-tailed hawk gliding low over a marsh or grassland, holding its wings in a V-shape and sporting a white patch at the base of its tail. Up close it has an owlish face that helps it hear mice and voles beneath the vegetation. Each gray-and-white male may mate with several females, which are larger and brown. These unusual raptors have a broad distribution across North America.

More ID Info
image of range map for Northern Harrier
Year-roundBreedingMigrationNonbreeding
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

In fall through spring, look for harriers in wide-open grasslands, marshes, or fields. You’re most likely to notice Northern Harriers when they are flying. Note the low, slow, coursing flight style, the bird’s V-shaped wing posture, and its white rump. During migration in the fall and spring, you can also see harriers high in the sky over mountain ridges and coastlines.

Other Names

  • Aguilucho de Hudson (Spanish)
  • Busard des marais (French)
  • Cool Facts

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