Northern Harrier

  • Photo Credit: Vic Berardi

  • Photo Credit: Vic Berardi


marsh hawk, American harrier, hen harrier, harrier, gray ghost (males)

Identification Features:

  • Slender, medium sized
  • White rump patch
  • Long, relatively narrow wings held above the horizontal in dihedral
  • Juveniles and females: brown above, cream (adults) to chestnut (juveniles) below, dark streaking
  • Adult males: gray with black wing tips above, and white, with faint rufous spotting below

Wingspan: 3'2"4'
Length: 1'6"-2"
W-L ratio: 2.4:1
Weight: 0.7-1.3 lbs

Flight Behavior:

The Northern Harrier typically migrates alone. They soar, but more frequently flap and glide while migrating at tree-top level. Occassionally, they will rock in flight like a turkey vulture.

Feeding habits:

Northern Harriers search in open habitats, flying close to the ground in buoyant gliding and flapping flight. They prefer to hunt in areas with mixed vegetative cover and avoid short vegetation. Harriers feed on small to medium sized mammals, particularly rodents, as well as birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Northern Harrier Raptor Bites:

  • Have an owl-like facial disk that allows them to hunt by sound as well as sight
  • Roost communally on the ground often together with Short-eared Owls
  • Prefers open habitat, including marshes and grasslands
  • Both monogamous and polyganous
  • Lay four to six eggs annually
  • Best chance of sighting is in late October