Naturalist Fact: Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier (also called the Marsh Hawk) is seen throughout the winter months on Little St. Simons Island. The only harrier found in North America, it spends its summers as far north as Canada, and returns to the southern US in the winter.

With a wingspan of 3.5 feet, the Northern Harrier is a long-winged and long-tailed hawk. They can be spotted flying low over the marshes searching for

prey such as small mammals, birds, lizards, or snakes. It’s thought that they use their sense of hearing just as much as sight in hunting.

The Northern Harrier can be picked out by its distinctive flight pattern. Its wings are usually held in a V-shape as it dips and dives just above the tops of the grass in open areas. While the Northern Harrier varies in coloration between juveniles, adult females, and adult males, it always has a characteristic white patch just above its tail.

This species is not on the Federal Threatened and Endangered Species List, but has been on the National Audubon Society’s early-warning Blue List of declining species since 1972.

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