Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier, a hawk of marshes and grasslands, is North America’s only species of harrier. They can be found year-round along the coast of British Columbia where they nest on the ground in open fields of tall grass.

They have large white rump patches and tend to fly very low to the ground, distinct features useful for identifying this bird in the field.

Unlike other hawks, Northern Harriers have facial disks similar to those of owls; this helps them to hunt not only with their eyes, but also with their ears. They feed on Townsend’s Voles, mice, and other small mammals and birds typically found on agricultural land.

Quite the womanizers of the bird world, males often have one or two mates at a time, but may have up to five mates in a single breeding season. Historically, Northern Harriers suffered a decrease in numbers due to the destruction of wetland habitat, as well as the use of the pesticide DDT.

Photo by Pat Gaines

Today populations are mostly stable or are in slight decline across Canada, and harriers can be seen on a daily basis in Delta. Thanks in part to farmer co-operation in Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust’s Grassland Set-aside Stewardship Program, these hawks can access important grass habitats on the Fraser River delta. The Northern Harrier is represented on the logo of the Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust.

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