Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spotted Harrier


Newsletter: 10-23-09

A striking raptor that is encountered regularly in small numbers when travelling through the drier parts of Australia is the Spotted Harrier, and we came across several on the trip to Northern Australia. Harriers hunt by patrolling low over open ground flying buoyantly or gliding with upswept wings, relying on stealth to capture terrestrial prey, such a birds, small mammals and reptiles.

Spotted Harrier (Circus assimilis) by Ian

Spotted Harrier (Circus assimilis) by Ian

Like Grass Owls, they have very long legs for seizing prey in grasslands and they often fly with their legs dangling as in the first two photos. This bird has the characteristic, pale-spotted chestnut underparts of the adult plumage but the upperparts are brownish rather than grey and appears sub-adult. The other bird, taken from below, is an adult and has a grey neck and the chestnut facial disc that gives it a slightly owlish appearance.

The Spotted Harrier has a wide distribution in mainland Australia, but occurs in Tasmania only as a vagrant. In wetter areas such as wetlands, it is replaced by the Swamp Harrier. There are 13 species of Harrier worldwide. All of these nest on the ground, with the exception of the Spotted Harrier which nests in small trees.

Recent additions to the website include:

a distant shot of a Sandstone Shrikethrush
and new photos of:
Golden Bowerbird
Wedge-tailed Eagle
Rainbow Bee-eater
(Far) Eastern Curlew

Spotted Harrier (Circus assimilis) by Ian

Spotted Harrier (Circus assimilis) by Ian

Best wishes,

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:

The harrier is not specifically mentioned by name in the Bible, but it is in the same family with the hawks, kites and eagles, which are all mentioned.

Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south? (Job 39:26)

As Ian said, there are 13 Harriers worldwide. There are also 2 Marsh Harriers and 2 Harrier-Hawks. I have shown all of them in Taxonomic order. There are links to the ones I could find. They are part of the Family Accipitridae, which includes Kites, Hawks & Eagles and all are in the ORDER ACCIPITRIFORMES.

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) by Nikhil
Eastern Marsh Harrier (Circus spilonotus) ©
Papuan Harrier (Circus spilothorax) ©
Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian
African Marsh Harrier (Circus ranivorus) by Africaddict
Reunion Harrier (Circus maillardi) ©
Malagasy Harrier (Circus macrosceles) ©
Long-winged Harrier (Circus buffoni) ©WikiC
Spotted Harrier (Circus assimilis) by Ian
Black Harrier (Circus maurus) Video by Keith
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) by Jim Fenton
Cinereous Harrier (Circus cinereus) ©
Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) ©
Pied Harrier (Circus melanoleucos) by Nikhil
Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus) by IanVideo by Keith
African Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides typus) ©WikiC- Video by Keith
Madagascar Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides radiatus) ©Wikipedia

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