Northern Harrier


Circus cyaneus, NOHA

Size and Shape

L:18″ WS: 43″  Slightly smaller than a red-tailed.  Slender, with long wings and long, rounded tail.  Wings have a “sharp dihedral” which means that it holds its wings up in a big V shape.  Face owl-like.

Colour Pattern

Males: Grey on top, white on bottom.  Wingtips are black, and wing edges (tips of secondaries) are too.  Tail is black and banded.

Females: Brown on top, whitish with lots of brown streaks on bottom.  Secondaries are boldly barred with black and white, all the way to the tips of the wing.  Wing edge is black like males.

Juveniles: Kinda like females, but more orange.

Both females and juveniles have pale bars on top shoulders of wings.  Top of male wings look like underside, but put through a photocopier on a very dark setting–pale grey, with black tips and edge that connect.  All have white patch at base of tail.


Like to fly low over the ground (marshes, farmland, grasslands).  Perches and nests on the ground–the highest it will perch is low fenceposts.  Feeds mainly on small birds and mammals, by doing a little awkward dive.


Mainly Male

Mating: chef chef chef (quick squeaky sponge wiping on dry windshield)
Alarm: kekekekeke (same sound, faster, higher)

Mainly Female and Young

Piercing whistle eeeya or high, thin sseeeew


Wide-open areas, nesting on the ground.  Nests are made from grass or marsh vegetation.


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