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Marsh Hawk - Northern Harriers

Circus cyaneus

Text and Photos By Damian Fagan

 hawk

Range

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

Habitat

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.

Description

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.

Behavior

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

 

 


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