Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk)

Northern Harrier

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The Northern Harrier is a sleek bird of prey with a long, narrow tail. The adult male is a pale gray color and the female is brown dorsally and streaked with brown ventrally. Additionally, the wingtips of adult males are black. A prominent field mark of both the male and female Northern Harrier is its white rump that shows most easily in flight. 

The birds systematically search an area by flying 5 to 30 feet above the vegetation. When prey is located, the Harrier either stalls in flight and pounces, or hovers like a helicopter for a better look, or a better listen.

Harriers have an owl-like face. The concave facial disk and relatively large off-set ears enable the bird to use triangulation of sound to help locate prey such as mice, voles, juvenile rabbits, frogs, pheasant chick, and other birds in dense vegetation. The female Harrier is larger than the male; hence, the female takes larger prey than the male.

Northern Harriers are found primarily in marshes, fields and prairie habitats. They breed in North America from Alaska to Canada, south through Northern Arizona, New Mexico, and through southeastern portions of the United States.


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