Northern Harriers, Circus hudsonius
Northern Harriers are found in various regions of North America, Europe, Asia, and South America. In North America, they breed in the northern regions and migrate to the southern United States, Mexico, and Central and South America during the winter. They inhabit a wide range of open habitats, including marshes, grasslands, prairies, meadows, agricultural fields, and coastal areas. They are well adapted to environments with low vegetation cover, which suits their hunting strategy.
They have a slim, long-tailed body and long wings, which enable them to fly with agility and maneuverability. They have an owl-like facial disk, with a ruff of feathers that enhances their hearing abilities. This adaptation helps them detect prey in dense vegetation.
Northern Harriers are known for their distinctive behavior of flying low, just above the ground and slowly scanning the area for prey. Once prey is located, they execute a quick, low-level attack, surprising their target. They have excellent hearing and rely on sound to detect small mammals, such as mice, voles, and rabbits, hidden in the vegetation. They also consume birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects when available.
Northern Harriers typically nest on the ground, constructing nests in grassy or marshy areas. The nests are often built in dense vegetation or hidden among tall grasses to provide protection and concealment. They are relatively large and built with sticks, twigs, grasses, and other plant materials. The female does most of the nest construction, while the male assists by providing materials.
Females lay 4 to 6 eggs, each at intervals of about 2 to 3 days. Incubation lasts around 29 to 31 days and is primarily performed by the female. The male provides food during this period. After hatching, both parents participate in raising and feeding the young. The chicks are fed a diet of small mammals and other prey brought by their parents. The parents tear the food into small pieces to feed their young until they are able to consume larger prey.
The fledging period for Northern Harriers occurs approximately 30 to 35 days after hatching. The young harriers leave the nest and begin to explore nearby areas, learning to fly and hunt under the guidance of their parents. The parents continue to provide food and support during this period.
Northern Harriers are partially migratory, with some populations migrating south during the winter months. Migration patterns vary depending on the region and the availability of food.