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Simpson Street Free Press

The Northern Harrier Is a Small Hunter that Lives in Wisconsin’s Grasslands

There are many animals in Wisconsin, but many people may not have heard about northern harriers.

The northern harrier is similar to a hawk and it is the only harrier in North America. Northern harriers have an owl-like facial disk that allows them to hunt by sound, as well as by sight. All northern harriers have a white rump patch. Adult male harriers are gray, while adult females and juveniles are brown.

This species is often found in fields and marshes during nesting season. However, they also live in many kinds of wet and dry open terrain, where there is good ground cover.

Northern harrier populations are decreasing in many states, however, it remains stable in Wisconsin. The current population of northern harriers exceeds 100,000 birds.

Northern harriers' favorite prey is small mammals like voles. They like to live near their prey because they are hunters, and need to have an abundant source of food.

The females incubate three to five eggs in 31 days, then raise their chicks for 36 days until they can fly. Northern harriers mostly like to be in grassland where there are no trees around them. If there were trees, they would be more vulnerable to owls and crows that eat their babies.

This species is unique, but it is not well known. Some people call this species the “gray ghost.” While hunting, it has an almost floaty flight pattern, giving rise to its nickname.

Northern harriers are located across various regions in the United States and as populations are declining in many, it is important to understand how actions can be done to help protect these birds.

[Source: Wisconsinbirds.org]

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