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Merlin Bird ID

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    Northern Harrier

    Silhouette HarriersHarriers

    Northern Harrier

    Circus hudsonius
    • ORDER: Accipitriformes
    • FAMILY: Accipitridae
    Basic Description

    The Northern Harrier is distinctive from a long distance away: a slim, long-tailed hawk gliding low over a marsh or grassland, holding its wings in a V-shape and sporting a white patch at the base of its tail. Up close it has an owlish face that helps it hear mice and voles beneath the vegetation. Each gray-and-white male may mate with several females, which are larger and brown. These unusual raptors have a broad distribution across North America.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Northern HarrierRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    In fall through spring, look for harriers in wide-open grasslands, marshes, or fields. You’re most likely to notice Northern Harriers when they are flying. Note the low, slow, coursing flight style, the bird’s V-shaped wing posture, and its white rump. During migration in the fall and spring, you can also see harriers high in the sky over mountain ridges and coastlines.

    Other Names
    • Aguilucho de Hudson (Spanish)
    • Busard des marais (French)
    • Cool Facts