Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier in Flight

Northern Harrier
(Circus hudsonius)

Order:  Accipitriformes
Family:  Accipitridae

Photo © Birdiegal717

Northern Harrier Information

Length:  16 - 24"

In the Northeast, the Northern Harrier is found in freshwater marshes, saltwater marshes, wet meadows, sloughs, swamps, and open fields. It requires open country for hunting.

The diet of the Northern Harrier consists mostly of small mammals such as voles, mice, and shrews. It also preys on small rabbits, small birds, reptiles, amphibians, and 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)

Northern Harrier
Breeding Bird Survey Map,

Northern Harrier Breeding Map

(Image credit: USGS)

Northern Harrier
Range Maps from Cornell

Northern Harrier breeding, winter and year-round range.

Includes separate map of sightings.

Northern Harrier
Christmas Bird Count Map

Historical CBC Map from USGS