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Northern Harrier

(also called marsh hawk or hen harrier)

  • Body length 17 to 24 inches; weight 12 to 18 ounces; wingspan 3-½ feet to 4-½ feet.
  • Adult males are slate or bluish gray in color with a white belly. Adult females are brown with a buff-streaked chest. Both have a white rump patch. Both are brown the first year.
  • North America is home to 1 of 10 Harrier species, and that is the Northern Harrier.
  • Harriers are ground nesters and ground roosters and can be polygynous with a single male mating with possibly 2-3 or more females. The male courtship display is dramatic consisting of dives, barrel rolls, flipping upside down and coming out of it to go back up. Male provides food for female and young by aerial dropping food to the female.
  • Harriers are also communal roosters during the winter and sometimes seen with the Short-Eared Owl (its counterpart at night), both of which are on the Endangered Species List in Illinois.
  • Favorite food is small mammals, birds, insects, reptiles. They hunt low over grasslands, marshes, wetlands. Have been known to drown waterfowl.
  • Harriers have large ear openings and an owl-like face with a facial disk enabling the Harrier to find prey in dense grasses and marshes. Harriers hunt by flying slow and low to the ground, quartering and tilting their head side-to-side listening for prey. Harriers have soft feathers for quieter flight.

Marshall - Northern Harrier


American Kestrel | Bald Eagle | Barred Owl | Broad Winged Hawk | Common Barn Owl | Cooper's Hawk | Eastern Screech Owl | Great Horned Owl | Long-Eared Owl | Merlin Falcon | Northern Harrier | Northern Saw-Whet Owl | Peregrine Falcon | Red-Shouldered Hawk | Red-Tail Hawk | Short-Eared Owl | Snowy Owl |