Bird Fact Friday – Northern Harrier

From page 140 of Raptors of Mexico and Central America:

Norther Harriers are slim-bodied raptor with long legs, long wings, and a long tail. Their distinctive quartering flight, flying low over the ground, is unique. A white patch on the uppertail coverts and a dark head that appears hooded and shows an owllike facial disk are distinctive. Sexes have different adult plumages, but are nearly identical in juvenile plumage. Females are noticeably larger than males.

Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius). Adult female. Adult females have brown upperparts, heavily streaked underparts, white bands on underwings, and yellow eyes. Photo credit: Richard Pavek

They hunt most of the time with their distinctive quartering flight, flying low over the ground and pouncing quickly when prey is spotted. However, they can fly directly toward avian prey in a rapid flight from some distance, with a short, twisting tail chase at the end. Males prey more on birds, while females take more mammals, but they both take both. They have been reported to drown waterfowl. Recent studies have shown that Northern Harriers can locate prey by sound almost as well as owls can, which explains the facial disk.

Raptors of Mexico and Central America
William S. Clark & N. John Schmitt
With a foreword by Lloyd Kiff

Raptors are among the most challenging birds to identify in the field due to their bewildering variability of plumage, flight silhouettes, and behavior. Raptors of Mexico and Central America is the first illustrated guide to the region’s 69 species of raptors, including vagrants. It features 32 stunning color plates and 213 color photos, and a distribution map for each regularly occurring species. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, age-related plumages, status and distribution, subspecies, molt, habitats, behaviors, potential confusion species, and more.

Raptors of Mexico and Central America is the essential field guide to this difficult bird group and the ideal travel companion for anyone visiting this region of the world.

This post is part of a series, explore additional posts here<< Bird Fact Friday – Blyth’s TragopanBird Fact Friday – The Red Faced Warbler >>