Marsh Hawk - Northern Harriers

Circus cyaneus

Text and Photos By Damian Fagan



Ranges from Alaska and Canada to South America, including all of the Desert Southwest into Baja, California.


Marshes, fields and prairies. In the Moab sloughs, Harriers are winter residents but may be observed in summer. They are not known to nest in the sloughs.


A large hawk with a white rump patch,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. Now, I would add Black-billed Magpie to their prey menu, although magpies may represent a minute fraction of the Harrier's diet.


Northern Harriers hunt on the wing during the day cruising low over open fields or marshlands with their wings held in a V-like pattern. 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.

Life Cycle

In one study, 25 % of the Harrier nests were associated with polygynous matings -- males bred with more than one female. Females construct most of the nest in tall weeds or reeds often on top of a low bush or knoll on dry ground.

-- Damian Fagan



Share this page on Facebook:

DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)

The Desert Environment
The North American Deserts
Desert Geological Terms



The Black Widow SpiderView Video about The Black Widow Spider. The female black widow spider is the most venomous spider in North America, but it seldom causes death to humans, because it only injects a very small amount of poison when it bites. Click here to view video.

The Bobcat

The BobcatVideo available on this subject.
Despite its pussycat appearance when seen in repose, the bobcat is quite fierce and is equipped to kill animals as large as deer. However, food habit studies have shown bobcats subsist on a diet of rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, pocket gophers and wood rats. Join us as we watch this sleepy bobcat show his teeth.

Mountain Lion

The Mountain Lion
The Mountain Lion, also known as the Cougar, Panther or Puma, is the most widely distributed cat in the Americas. It is unspotted -- tawny-colored above overlaid with buff below. It has a small head and small, rounded, black-tipped ears. Watch one in this video.


Take a look at our Animals index page to find information about all kinds of birds, snakes, mammals, spiders and more!

Hot temperatures in the desertAre you interested in the temperatures in the desert?

Click here to see current desert temperatures!

is a comprehensive resource about the North American deserts and Southwest destinations. Learn about desert biomes while you discover how desert plants and animals learn to adapt to the harsh desert environment. Find travel information about national parks, state parks, BLM land, and Southwest cities and towns located in or near the desert regions of the United States. Access maps and information about the Sonoran Desert, Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Chihuahuan Desert.

Copyright © 1996-2015 and Digital West Media, Inc. - -