Resident Raptor - Northern Harrier
Deva A male, was found in October 2005 as a hatch year bird near Houston TX, having fractured his wrist, radius and ulna, as well as severing the tip of the right wing, when hitting a guy wire. He was sent to CRC as an education bird in October 2006. He will turn the characteristic gray with black wing tips as he ages.
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
A slender, graceful raptor of the open country with long legs, long wings,
a long tail, and a dark-hooded, owl-like face. Females are larger than
males, and the adult plumages of the two sexes are very different. Females
are brown above, buffy below, with the chest and sides heavily-streaked with
brown, and lighter streaking and spotting on the belly. The underwing shows
heavy barring of the flight feathers. The male is pale blue-gray above, and
mostly white below, with some small rufous spotting on the chest and belly.
Wing tips and trailing edges of the wing are black. Juveniles look like
females, with a reddish tinge to their plumage. A white patch on the upper
tail near the base is a distinctive feature on both sexes. The Northern
Harrier also has a unique disc of facial feathers, giving them an owlish
appearance, that probably helps them hunt by ear - useful in areas of high
grass. These birds are often seen flying low, back and forth over the
ground, with wings held in a bold dihedral - a "harrying" pattern of flight
used while out hunting. Their long, narrow wings are very flexible in
flight, and they tend to bounce around unsteadily in winds.
||16 - 18 "
||18 - 20"
||38 - 43"
||43 - 48"
||10 - 14 oz.
||14 - 21 oz.
Status - State and federally protected.
Habitat - As the common name of "marsh hawk" suggests, this species
likes fresh and saltwater marshes. Can be found in a variety of other open
areas, such as wet meadows, grasslands, prairies, tundra, and cultivated
areas - all generally at low elevations.
Diet - Eats a variety of food, with males tending to take more birds,
females taking more small mammals. They most commonly hunt by zigzagging low
over the ground, pouncing quickly when prey is found. These birds use many
other hunting techniques as well - perch hunting, hover hunting, stooping
(diving from high above), pirating prey from other species, even running
prey down on foot through dense brush.
Call - Generally quiet, but can give a piercing, whistling alarm call
Nesting -Breeds only in wetland or grassland habitats. The male puts
on a performance of aerial acrobatics called "sky dancing" to court the
female, advertising his hunting prowess - males often pass food to their
mates in mid-air. Northern Harriers are also the only polygamous hawks in
North America. Build nests of grass on the ground, hidden by the marsh
Most Common Problems - These grassland and marshland ground nesters
often have their well-hidden nests exposed or destroyed by mowing machines.